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University of California Berkeley 

University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 

George R. Stewart 

With an Introduction by 
James D. Hart 

An Interview Conducted by 
Suzanne B. Riess 

1972 by The Regents of the University of California 

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between the Regents of the University of California 
and George R. Stewart, dated 12 May 1972, and by letter of 
17 April 1973. The manuscript is thereby made available 
for research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publish, are reserved to George R. Stewart 
during his lifetime. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the Director 
of The Bancroft Library of the University of California at 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should 
be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
and should include identification of the specific passages to 
be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification 
of the user. The legal agreement with George R. Stewart requires 
that he be notified of the request and allowed thirty days in 
which to respond. 


SERIES PREFACE by Willa Baum 1 

INTERVIEW HISTORY by Suzanne Riess 11 

AUTHOR S PREFACE by George R. Stewart Iv 

INTRODUCTION by James D. Hart vl 

INTERVIEW I, Family and Influences, high school, 1 

discussion of writing methods and some discoveries 
about writing. 

INTERVIEW II, Study at Princeton, Berkeley, Columbia; 13 
about the satisfactions of being a professor at a good 
university; life in Berkeley in the 193s; reviewers, 
fans, and agents; some themes; Doctor's Oral; "Mapping 

OUt" a bOOk; adversity. Reprint from Names. March 1961. 

INTERVIEW III, Conversation about priorities and 57 

motivation; the plays; abandoned projects; Fire. Earth 
Abides ; teaching writing; more abandoned projects. 

INTERVIEW IV, Some other writers and poets: Hemingway, 83 
H.L. Davis, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost; "stages" of 
writing a book (maybe); the collected work in retrospect. 

INTERVIEW V, Bret Harte. Ordeal by Hunger. John Phoenix. 10? 
East of the Giants. Doctor^ Oral. Take Your Bible in 
Your Hand. Storm; some comments about publishers 

INTERVIEW VI, Storm. Fire. Names on the Land. Man? 138 
beginnings and endings of books; work for the Navy; 
a story; marriage to Theodosia Burton; the Faculty 
Club; loyalty oath crisis. 

INTERVIEW VII, Earth Abides. Year of the Oath. Sheep Rock. 179 
U.S. *K). American Ways of Life. Years of the City. 
Piokett*s Charge. California Trail. Good Lives; 
premonitions, clubs, aging. 

INTERVIEW VIII, The Shakespeare Crisis; influences 224 
of California and the West; the Bancroft Library; 
oral history; literary influences; Not 3o Rich as 
You Think; presses; "a good life"; the Book. 

Answers to questions mailed to George Stewart dealing 

with his travels and the idea of "going away to think." 250 

INTERVIEW IX, with George R. Stewart and Charles L. Camp. 254 
First meetings, almost; "the history of life"; folklore, 
and the Drake Plate; hoaxmakers ; sideways to history; 
Herbert Bolton; adventures with Charlie and George; 
off the road; the house at Black Hook; later trips, 
other companions; "...write the way George does"; the 
library, then; the library, in transition; the Bancroft 
Library; pleasures and pains of writing. 

APPENDIX A On Awarding Honors, by George R. Stewart 299 

APPENDIX B On Dishonesty, Seeming and Real, by 304 

George R. Stewart 




- ) .' : 



This interview with Professor George R. Stewart, Emeritus 
Professor of English, and author, is one of the Diverse 
Memoirs sponsored by the Friends of The Bancroft Library. 
The Friends established the series of Diverse Memoirs so that 
the Regional Oral History Office could record the recollections 
of individuals in a variety of subject fields who have made 
outstanding contributions to our knowledge of life in California 
and the West. 

George Stewart's selection as a memoirist by resolution 
of the Council of the Friends of The Bancroft Library on 
April 15, 1971, reflects the Council's recognition of his 
singular position in the University world of teaching and 
scholarship, and. in the world of popular literature. His 
interest in the ways of life and the movement of history in 
America, particularly in revealing the roots of California, 
have made George Stewart an especially creative user of western 
history resources. It is these qualities that make an interview 
with George Stewart a logical choice for the Diverse Memoirs 
Series, and an illuminating addition to oral history. 

Willa Baum, Department Head 
Regional Oral History Office 

October 1972 

^86 The Bancroft Library 
University of California 
Berkeley, California 



George Stewart was interviewed for the Regional Oral 
History Office in a series of meetings in the Stewart 
apartment in San Francisco. The view of San Francisco, from 
the 20th floor, was always worth a long look, and came as 
a kind of grand climax to the trip from Berkeley. In fact, 
here I thank George Stewart, author, for making such indelible 
marks in my thinking about this part of the country that a 
trip across the Bay Bridge not to mention into the Sierra 
becomes a fascinating, distracting speculation into past and 
future. He shares his country, and the earth abides indeed. 

At the time of our planning for interviewing him, George 
Stewart was making weekly trips to Berkeley to work in The 
Bancroft Library with Harry Roberts, master bookbinder, and 
to have lunch at the Faculty Club and meet appointments around 
the campus. That was not the right day for us to interview, 
it seemed, so San Francisco, in the afternoon, was settled 
upon. (Before noon was for writing.) At one p.m. I would 
arrive, migrate to the view, then attach the tape recorder; 
perhaps to counter my "edge of the seat" posture, George 
Stewart would settle way back into a cushiony armchair, feet 
up, and we would interview. When it was over, Mrs. Stewart 
usually Joined us for talk. Then, after an expert assessment 
of the possibilities of entering the by then steadily-flowing 
traffic to the Bay Bridge, I would depart. 

The interviews took place irregularly in May, June, July, 
September, and October 1971, and in February 1972. The 
transcribing followed close on the heels of the interviews, 
largely because of the transcriber's enthusiasm for the 
subject. So when the interviews were over, the editing, by 
the interviewer, took not very much time. It was completed 
in the office in February 1972, and was then back into the 
office again, with George Stewart's additions, in March 1972. 
James D. Hart, The Bancroft Library's Director, was the first 
reader, after Mrs. Stewart, and kindly agreed to write the 
good friend's reminiscence that is the Introduction to the 


r 5 


The volume includes an additional reminiscing together 
of George Stewart and his very longtime friend and co-explorer 
in California history, Charles L. Camp, Emeritus Professor of 
Paleontology, and inveterate bibliographer. After a pleasant 
lunch one day in March, they talked about trips and memories 
they shared. Recorded after the George Stewart interviews 
were completed, the conversation has been left unlndexed, and 
it is called Interview IX. 

As George Stewart says, there is an autobiography in 
the works, and that manuscript will one day be available in 
The Bancroft Library, where several cartons of working 
manuscripts, letters, business correspondence, fan mail, 
reviews, unpublished fiction, dramatic works, and memos to 
himself are already deposited. 

Suzanne B. Riess, Interviewer 
Regional Oral History Office 

September 1972 
^86 The Bancroft Library 
University of California 
Berkeley, California 



For this collaboration on my life I have supplied the 
title. I must, indeed, make acknowledgement to Rudyard 
Kipling, whose autobiography is called Something of Myself* 

Whether as "a little" or as "something" the title is an 
honest one. No autobiography can possibly present more than 
a small fraction of the individual's life. To attempt thus 
to write quantitatively would result in proliferation of details 
until the finished work resembled the Encyclopedia Brltannloa. 
To do so qualitatively, that is, by probing into the individual's 
psyche and deeper mind, is also impossible. Any autobiography, 
therefore, must consist of comparatively few and well-selected 
external details, and perhaps of a few hesitant attempts to 
probe beneath the surface of the mind. 

In this particular series of Interviews, there have been, 
moreover, some conscious limitations. We laid down some 
ground-rules at the beginning. 

I have already written an autobiographical account taking 
me to the age of eighteen, and I expect to continue this 
narrative until I reach the age of twenty-eight. Possibly, 
even, I shall continue It still farther. This autobiographical 
account has not been published, and may never be. In that 
latter case, however, I shall try to see to it that the manu 
script is deposited with my other papers in the Bancroft 

To have included here an account of my first twenty-eight 
years would have resulted in almost total repetition. Doubtless, 
under the influence of Suzanne's skillful questioning, I should 
have developed some ideas that I have not developed on my own. 
Here, however, we seemed to face a situation which could result 
only in diminishing returns with labor scarcely Justifying the 

There is also another autobiograplcal fragment (covering 
roughly my twenty-fourth year), that is, my contribution to 
the book There Was Light. 

In addition, at the beginning I told Suzanne that I was 
not greatly Interested in developing the theme of university 
history not for the lack of interest in itself, but rather 

that others more knowledgeable in that field have already 
contributed to this project. In addition, the small volume 
that I did on the Department of English and The Year of t r he 
Oath tell a good deal about my attitudes and possible con 
tributions to higher learning and to the university. 

We agreed that the chief emphasis should be upon my books, 
particularly upon such "inside" items as would not be brought 
out by reading of the books themselves or from reviews. I 
mean my methods of writing, attitudes toward the material, 
my own appraisals of success or failure, and my personal 
contacts resulting from the books. 

Perhaps unfortunately, a large area lay between the 
calculated omissions and the emphasized inclusions. As the 
upshot, I may seem to be a disembodied spinner of words, 
sitting at a typewriter or at a microphone. There is not 
much about my family and friends, about my travels, hobbies 
and general relaxations, about my teaching, about any deeper 
philosophy that I may possess. 

So be it I After all, the title is A Little of Myself. 

As for Suzanne, by calling her a collaborator rather than 
an interviewer I think that I express my appreciation of her. 

Let me also express my thanks to the Friends of the 
Bancroft Library, and particularly to their Council, who have 
Invested their funds in this project. I hope that at some 
time in the future their confidence will be repaid. 

George R. Stewart 

March 1972 

San Francisco, California 



I have known George Stewart for almost forty years. He 
has been a good friend and a wonderful colleague with whom 
I've had long, happy, and diverse associations. Over the 
years we have visited back and forth in one another's homes, 
for long periods as often as once a week, and we have lectured 
in one another's classes. We have worked together on 
University committees and we have gone to the mountains to 
follow pioneer trails and to fish together. 

When I first got to know George Stewart I was a graduate 
student at Harvard who came to ask him a question about his 
recently published biography of Bret Harte. A little later, 
in 1936, I became an instructor at Berkeley and he published 
Ordeal By Hunger. During the years since then, I have continued 
to read everything George Stewart has published; certainly 
every book and important article or story. I've had the 
privilege of reading most of his writings In manuscript and 
discussing them with him before they were printed. But even 
after such close association, this Regional Oral History Office 
Interview adds a great deal to my knowledge and understanding 
of George Stewart and his writings. What an illuminating 
work it will be for those who have less personal knowledge of 
him! It presents invaluable information from an author talking 
fully and freely about his writing. Moreover, this is an 
author who is not only a novelist, historian and biographer 
but a critic too. Here is a man professionally devoted to 
literary studies displaying his highly trained powers and 
perceptions to analyze his own work. 


Because George Stewart is remarkably thoughtful, clear 
headed, honest and capable of self -discernment he creates a 
very important document here, unlike and beyond the more 
conventional biographical recollections that are the stuff 
of most of the ROHO interviews. It is typical of him that 
George Stewart should make his ROHO interview different from 
others. He is a man possessed of a remarkably original mind; 
everything he does is approached from his own special angle 
of vision. The very diversity of topics and forms represented 
in his books Is indicative of that. Indeed, even within his 
own field of scholarship on English literature, he has been 
quite astonishing in publishing on Malory and Bret Harte, on 
Faulkner and William Henry Thomas, on Melville and Stevenson, 
on Chaucer and George H. Derby. I don't suppose any other 




scholarly writer on Malory or Chaucer has even heard of Derby 
or Thomes, except perhaps through Stewart's work. Yet George 
Stewart's variety of Interests and range of knowledge is 
matched by the equally great diversity of his points-of-view 
toward his materials and the different techniques he has used. 
He is always his own man, creating his own kind of work, 
whether in that unusual novel Storm or in his poetic and 
fiotive techniques in the handling of history in Ordeal By 

Somewhere in these interviews George Stewart mentions 
humorously that he makes his neuroses work for him. Well, 
neuroses or not, he is always very secure as he moves from 
one sort of thing to another, from one book to another, from 
one genre to another, from one project to another, seemingly 
without effort. Of course there's a lot of effort of research 
and thought, for example but George Stewart is obviously so 
certain of what he is doing that he is able to move in his 
own way seemingly without problems and thus able to present 
time and again a new point of view or open up a new subject, 
book after book. Because we learn about how this occurs and 
what he thinks of what he has done, this text is another 
important contribution by George Stewart. I am delighted to 
have been the first to read still another of his works, one 
that I am sure will also be appreciated in many ways by other 
readers yet to come. 

James D. Hart 
Professor of English 
Director, The Bancroft Library 

May 1972 

The Bancroft Library 
University of California 
Berkeley, California 

INTERVIEW I, Family and influences, high school; 
discussion of writing methods, and some discoveries 
about writing. (Recorded May 26, 1971) 

Riess: Reading through your Untitled Autobiography* made me 
want to know how much study of psychology you had 

Stewart: Very little formal study, and not very much informal 
study. My wife has taken care of that department. 
She is a psychiatric social worker. But I have never 
got into it very much, no. 

Riess: Was interviewing people much a part of your writing? 

Stewart: Yes, if you could call it interviewing not for their 
own personalities, but for what they knew about some 
subject. I did a lot of that for Storm and Fire and 
Earth Abides, on other books too. But it was mostly 
a matter of going to a person and saying, "What do you 
know about this particular thing?" 

Riess: And not, "How did you feel about this or that?" 
Stewart: No. 

Riess: You are so understanding of yourself and your family, 
and yet you seem to want to get on to talking about 
places and away from people pretty quickly. 

Stewart: Oh, I suppose my childhood, as I've said, was partly 

unhappy, and we all want to shy away from those things. 

Riess: You let the characters in your books have emotions. 

*Refer to Author's Preface. 

Stewart: There are certain things I shied away from, though, I 
think, certain kinds of emotional involvements. I 
think it's all right. I don't think everybody ought 
to write about the same thing. So, I don't mind that. 

Of course the thing I always had to fight not 
fight, exactly but people were always telling me I 
ought to put more about people in my books and I think 
that was very bad advice. After all, every writing is 
a kind of specialty, no writer writes about everything. 
I was writing about certain types of things, and if 
they didn't call for people in depth or in large 
number I think that was Just something that I had to 
my advantage, really. 

Riess: What I was commenting on was that you had a lot of 

insight, yet in the Autobiography you were reluctant 
to indulge it. 

Stewart: Yes, I think so, I think that's quite common, especially 
with people with my background; that Presbyterian- 
Scottish background is strongly disciplined, somewhat 
repressed, and I think that's what you are seeing. 

Biess: Do you remember mentioning showing off? 

Stewart: I don't like to get into analysis that deep, and 

you're never very good at analysing yourself, anyway. 
The showing off, I suppose, might be an overcompensation 
for being repressed; that would be a possibility. 

You've got a real advantage there, having the 
Aut obi ography . 

Riess: Does it seem nasty? Picking out phrases and throwing 
them back at you? 

Stewart: No, I think it's fine, I'm interested to see what you 
do pick out. 

Riess: Maybe it sounds like I'm trying to find loopholes. 
Stewart: No, I think it's that you're trying to fill gaps. 

Riess: As I read on I felt that I recognized a theme in the 
statement, "Give me a straightforward task and I can 
buckle down and learn, even with no special facility." 
It would seen that you have set yourself not Just 
straightforward, but monumental, tasks, the dictionary 
for instance. 

.'" N -.: 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 

Stewart: Well, In that case It looks like a straightforward 
task when you get through with It, and. sometimes It 
Is a straightforward task. Take a book like Names on 
the Land, for Instance, an Incredibly hard book to 
conceive, because It didn't exist, Incredibly hard to 
organize. Well, actually, writing a place-names 
dictionary Is a straightforward Job, but calls for 
tremendous efficiency. 

Would you say that even as a child you liked the 
challenge of a difficult task? 

Yes, I suppose so, although I was not a particularly 
early bloomer. 

Did you have goals, as a child? 

No, I had almost no goals at all. I had a terrific 
struggle when I had to get some. I don't know as it 
was worse than with other people, but I certainly did 
not have a sense of goal, that I was going to be a 
doctor, or a lawyer, or something like that. 

Bless: Did your brother Andrew have ambitions? 

Stewart: Yes, he did, he was going to be a millionaire. He 
never made it, but he might have, if he hadn't died 
rather young. His wife may be a millionaire right 
now, with what he was worth. 

He was always trying to get me to go along with 
his plans. I could never go for it, at all. His 
idea was that I was going to be a mining engineer. 
He wanted to develop mineral properties, and I was 
supposed to do the work, but I didn't go along with 
that idea. 

Riess: How about your parents' goals for you? 

Stewart: They were very tactful about that. I think they 

always wanted me to be a minister, but I don't think 
their wanting was a very important influence. I 
think they were happy with what I did. 

Riess: There was always the assumption that you would go to 

Stewart: Oh, always. Again, to get into the environment, that 
group is and was very strongly for a college education, 

Stewart: Just what it was going to do for me, that wasn't clear. 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

I think the influence of my brother was very 
strong. I brought that out pretty well In the Auto 
biography. And I think it led to a tremendous amount 
of development, for the good or for the bad, and that 
continued for a long time until it gradually worked 
out. It continued even until the time I was married. 
My wife knew my brother, and she couldn't stand him. 
He has been dead about twenty years or so. 

How did he do at school? 

He was very bright, and had very good grades, although 
he was never Interested in the studies as I was. He 
was much more athletic than I was. He was a very 
active fellow, who didn't make a tremendous success 
out of his life by his own standards, but he probably 
would have if he hadn't died so young. 

(I don't know why I should be talking about him.) 
He had a way of looking down on all technical skills, 
he wanted to be where the money was, where he could 
get it as it went by. Well, it was an age when John 
D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan were the heroes. 

After he graduated from college, he and a friend 
who had a lot of money Andy was always tied up with 
people with a lot of money made a trip to South 
America, to Argentina, which was a tremendous trip in 
those days. They wanted to import Chinese labor, but 
the Argentines wanted nothing to do with that. 

He was always full of big schemes, like that, 


Oh, I think the idea that my father lost most of his 
money was important. That makes a difference in a 
family; you become much more conscious of money, much 
more than if you never had any money. 

Did Andrew read much? 

Yes, he did, though his reading was somewhat 
differently focused than mine. We both read the Henty 
books, but Andrew also read Alger, you know, the Alger 
books, about how a boy makes money. 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Do you think that boys reading those books of heroes 
would be making the comparisons with their own 
dullish lives. I mean, do you think that Alger for 
a boy Is Inspirational, or does It make him think, 
"Wow, my life Is nothing." 

No, I don't think a child has that reaction you're 
speaking of, that's much more the adult. 

I guess It's like reading 
expect to come back. 

"escape" literature. 


Much escape literature Is full of such horrors that 
you make a double escape when you come back, that Is, 
you escape from the storybook into your dull but safe 

When the pages of the Autobiography end you are on a 
camping trip, at the end of your residence in Azusa. 
Was that your first time out in rugged country? 

Yes, it was, at least overnight. I had been out other 
times, like the trip when I killed the rattlesnake. 
People didn't do it as much in those days as they do 

When such things happened to you did you have a wish 
to write it down? Put it in a diary? 

No, not at all. I have practically nothing in the way 
of diaries except day by day notes when I was on trips, 
records of my European trips, and more recent trips. 
I never have enjoyed writing down day-to-day records. 
But I have a good memory, so that I can store up some 
thing to write about. 

So there wasn't much writing as a child. 

Not particularly, no. Of course I, like every 
American, dreamed of writing a great American novel. 
I had that to some extent, but I didn't try very hard. 

Often people have that wish to write a book after 
going through the experience of war. 

Yes, although I never had the real experience of war. 
I was in the Army for two years, but I didn't get out 
of this country. 

tO -3 

mess: Oh, I had thought that your disability, that you 
relate In There Was Light, was gassing.* 

Stewart: No, pneumonia. 

Bless: I recall you brought it up In that book, pointing out 
how surprising It was that with that In the background 
you lasted so long. 

Stewart: Well, it was pretty unbelievable. I don't deny it. 

In fact, my whole medical history is kind of a cliff- 
hanger. Every time I've come to the end of my tether, 
along comes penicillin or something and pulls me out 
of it. [laughing] 

About 1935 for instance, I was in a bad way, 
and Just about that time the sulfa drugs came in and 
pulled me out of that. And I didn't have to have 
the operation on my lungs until after they perfected 
the technique. I had to have a lobe of my lung cut, 
all from this pneumonia. And if it had had to be 
done ten years earlier, they probably wouldn't have 
been able to take it out. 

I've never been a robust person, but I have a 
tough constitution and I can recover well. I'm not 
one of these people who've never been sick. 

Riess: Now, in the Autobiography, you had gotten into high 

Stewart: Yes, in the next chapter I will bring out about my 

high school education in general, and. what I got out 
of it, and what kind of institutions we had in those 

I'm working on that chapter in my autobiography. 
Again, like my first year at Berkeley, my last year 
in high school was a very remarkable year. That's 
interesting to work on. On the other hand, my college 
years I think are much less important. My pattern 
worked out that It wasn't the important period in 
my life. 

Riess: Is it when you get to writing these things down that 
the memories come back and you realize it was 
remarkable, or did you always feel that it was? 

*See footnote, p. 20. 

Stewart: I realize it a little more sharply when I think back. 
I have some documents on this. I have the little 
high school magazine and the annual that came out. 
Those focus my mind. It was a year in which I had 
a great deal of luck. In some ways it was bad for 
me i because it came a little too easily almost. I 
never had any luck in college, really, I should say. 
Maybe I will think differently when I get to looking 
at it again. Of course, adversity's good for a man 

It's interesting having these two books, the 
magazine and the annual. My father got them bound up, 
you see, because I was mentioned in them. Being a 
proud father, he had these bound; so they're all very 
well preserved. There are various references to me, 
which are interesting. I expanded from that. It was 
interesting looking through the pictures of the class. 
Many people look familiar still. People I hadn't 
thought of for fifty years, you know. "There's some 
one oh yesf" Sometimes I even know his name. Just 
one Negro in that class, and one Japanese, in Pasadena 
in 1913. 

Riess: How did they fit in? 

Stewart: Oh, all right, I guess. I didn't know either of them 
particularly. I think the girl, the colored girl, 
was very undistinguished as far as I know. I don't 
know what the Japanese was like. I think he was quite 
bright, as they generally are. He figures in the 
book occasionally. He wrote a short story which was 
published in it. 

Riess: What were the predictions for you in high school? 

Stewart: Well, that was very amusing, really. That was part 
of the luck. I made my whole reputation In that 
class by writing a topical poem. It was no good as 
a poem. It wasn't supposed to be, but it fit into 
the period of the times just right apparently, and 
in an assembly one of the teachers told the presiding 
officer I had written this and I ought to read it to 
the assembly. So I read it to the whole assembly, 
to tremendous applause! [laughing] I was a marked 
man forever after in that school. That was the year 
I graduated. It was quite a big high school, about 


Stewart: 1500 students I think, even in those days, 
a four year high school, of course, then. 

It was 


[continuing an interrupted conversation about book 
binding and other interests] 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 


Stewart : 

I have this great love of working with my hands. I f ve 
showed you the bookbinding. And I've done some wood 
working; the bookcase in the other room I made that 
years ago. 

It's hard to imagine you finding the time, particularly 
when you were publishing almost a book a year for a 
while. In fact, I don't know how you did write as 
much as you did in those years when you were teaching 

I don't know either. I have one theory, though. 
I was trying to do [telephone interruption]... 


(I can't talk over the telephone with ease, and 
I always blame it on President MoKinley, as I told 
in the Autobiography the first news we ever received 
over the telephone was that McKinley was shot.) 

Anyway, what I was saying was that many writers 
agonize in the writing of a book, but I always enjoyed 
the process partly I guess because there was always 
the sense of achievement. 

You did have it organized with half a year teaching, 
half a year writing? 

I did for a while, yes, but actually I think I did 
my best writing, and my most writing, before that 
time. I didn't start that half time arrangement until 
about 1950. 


Hiess: So how did a day go, back in those days when you 
were really writing so much? 

Stewart: I tried to write in the morning, and then, as I say, 
when I got tired of writing I could go down to the 
University and teach. 

Riess: And you had to do a lot of reading and research to do 
your writing. 

Stewart: I did that largely in the evenings. 

And there again I went and picked out what I 
needed, and not too much, although that's dangerous, 
and not to be recommended. You may run short. It's 
dangerous to try to get Just enough and not too much, 
because you may miss some things you should get. Of 
course in a novel it doesn't really matter the 
decision to not write more about something than you 
can avoid whereas in a non-fiction work you can be 
criticized for rejecting some matter which should have 
been treated. 

Riess: But I do think your novels lend themselves to questions 
of What About This and What Happened Then? 

Stewart: Yes, but those are not really legitimate questions. 
A novel may be a good novel, or it may be an 
unsatisfactory novel for a particular reader, Just as 
some people criticize my books because they felt they 
didn't get enough about people, and that's legitimate 
criticism too, from their point of view, but it really 
isn't from the author's point of view. 

All of my novels had scenes that were written 
and then dropped out, and in a sense they still exist, 
and the writer may have all kinds of ideas about his 
characters, and about incidents, but he can't get to 
them all. What I'm saying is that the measure of a 
work of art consists in what is, and what is not there 
is not really a legitimate question. Sometimes you'll 
say a novel doesn't have enough depth or background, 
or detail, but that again is from the standpoint of 
the existing book. 

In Fire, for instance, I drew that whole map, 
with great detail the Bancroft Library has it, I 
believe. And a lot of the places on that map I never 
mentioned in the book. They were there in case I 

.;.. 1 


Stewart: needed them. 

HI ess: The copy of Fire that I read didn't have the map in 
it anymore, since the cover pages were redone. 
Actually, the contour of the fire was easily visualized 
because of your description. 

Stewart: Well, there's a question about maps in books, Just 

like Illustrations, whether they are a good thing or 
not in novels. 

Hiess: They imply that you will need them. 

Stewart: And then the book is likely to be published without 
them in paperback or something like that. I always 
wrote them with the idea that maps and pictures were 
not really necessary. 

Riess: Rereading Fire, I was really struck by the suspense 
and terror that you communicated about the impending 
disaster. Do you end each chapter with a cliffhanger? 

Stewart: To some extent, yes. My theory of the chapter and 
paragraph is that they provide points of emphasis, 
because of the white space. I've had a lot of fun 
with that, as in Fire where the chapter ends (in the 
middle of a sentence) at midnight of one day, and 
begins immediately, the next day. 

Fire and Storm were written with such terribly 
complicated topographical background that I had to 
keep a clear chronology to work with, to get one 
thing after another. The geography skips all over 
the place, particularly in Storm. 

Riess: Picking up all the tag ends of the action, does that 
happen easily? 

Stewart: That's quite difficult, and I made out an elaborate 
diagram, particularly in Storm. The time-span was 
twelve days, yet I didn't know at first how long it 
would be. It took me a long time before I could work 
out my basic background, which was the storm itself, 
in the twelve days, and then I had to work backwards. 
It was really quite complicated. 

Riess: HOW much real stuff did you have at hand, like the 
log of a weather bureau, or something over a given 
period of time? 


Stewart: None. I had all the cooperation I needed from the 
weather bureau, but I didn't have a log. My storm 
was a fictional storm, and the fire a fictional fire. 

Fire was in only eleven days. It started out to 
be twelve days, like Storm, they were companion pieces- 
but I didn't really need twelve days, and I didn't 
want to Just put another day in to make it run parallel 
to Storm. 

Riess: Do you like the words "documentary novel," used to 
describe your writings? 

Stewart: Not particularly. I guess it implies that you have 
worked from non-fictional materials, and actually I 
always kept the distinction there, and made it a 
fictional fire. Lots of people confuse that distinc 
tion. Ordeal by Hunger is non-fiction and it's hard 
to take that so many people think that Is a novel. 

That was very valuable training for writing, 
though, because that's a very complicated book, many 
sides to the account. It uses a technique that most 
historians have not known how to use I don't know 
how I learned it a kind of novelistic technique. 

Riess: The technique of weaving. 

Stewart: Yes, I think that's a good term for it. 

Riess: In Ordeal by Hunger did you begin your interest in 

pursuing trails, in writing about people's wanderings. 

Stewart: Well, I sometimes wonder how I got so interested in 
writing about trails, in people getting from one 
place to another. 

Riess: I can see how your books would lead off into the 

Stewart: Well, I don't think most people do feel that. I 

think they feel more the variety. And to a certain 
extent I do too. And I think that's far more 
interesting, as a writer, that there is no thread of 

Riess: The thread of development I see is the environmental 


Stewart: Well, I do feel for myself that I have chosen subjects 
for the variety. It was hard for me, for Instance, 
to do Fire, because it was a kind of repetition. But 
in writing Storm I discovered the fact that you can 
write about the infinite divisibility of timethe 
wire falls, and then the wire falls further T and that 
was very I hate to use the word exciting, but that 
was very exciting. 

Hiess: I wonder how you feel about the word "tricks," which 
you sometimes use in talking about your work. 

Stewart: I suppose it's like what people mean when they use 

the phrase tour de force, referring to my work, which 
I don't appreciate. Oftentimes what they mean is 
that I have used an original form, and "I shouldn't 
like this, but I do." 

Riess: Your form is original. Did you ever start out to 
write Just the great American novel? 

Stewart: Well, East of the Giants was that, I guess, a fairly 
conventional sort of novel. After Ordeal by Hunger 
I knew I could write, but the trick was to supply the 
motive power. The great difference between fiction 
and non-fiction is that you have to supply your own 
motive power. It's very difficult, and a lot of 
people think fiction is easier to write than non- 
fiction, but they are absolutely wrong. Non-fiction 
is easier to write; it's difficult enough to write 
well, but it's easier. 

In East of the Giants I took the Western cliche, 
which is the simple situation of the blonde American 
man who comes west and falls in love with the dark- 
haired Spanish beauty, and I reversed that. I had a 
blonde heroine, a blonde American girl who came out 
and married a dark man. 


INTERVIEW II, Study at Princeton, Berkeley, 
Columbia; about the satisfactions of being a 
professor at a good university; life in Berkeley 
in the 1930s; reviewers, fans, and agents; some 
themes; JDoctor's Oral; "mapping out" a book; 
adversity! (lie corded June 16, 1971) 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 

I'm a great pencil sharpener. My wife never sharpens 
pencils, and then I sharpen hers. Can't stand a dull 
pencil, takes all the cut out of my mind, with a dull 
pencil. A sharpened pencil is something you can make 
a mark with. 

How do you work? At a desk with a pile of new white 
paper and a lot of pencils? 

Well, I never do that. I never sit at a desk and 
write really. I always sit in a chair like this, and 
use a board, and write with a pencil. But of course 
I've done most of my work in the last twenty years 

with dictation. 

But you get into a particular place that's your 
working place? 

Oh well, I can be pretty adaptable on that, but I 
usually have a regular place, yes. 

Now, what were you planning to do, when you were at 

I went to college, I guess like most people, partic 
ularly in those days, without any very definite idea 
of what I wanted to do. There was this old idea of 
course, if you had a good old classical education, 
that was good for you, which I think was fairly all 
right. It probably was. I majored in English, 
actually, which is the line I followed, but I didn't 

Stewart : 




do it with any great conviction. I enjoyed that 
kind of work. I had what was called an honors 
course in English. They had an experiment then. We 
had a group of five students who in the last two 
years kept together all the time. That was, I think, 
a very good arrangement. We had the same professor 
all the time T. M. Parrott. 

I can't remember now who all those people were. 

I was trying to think the other day. 
those things after a while. 

In what sense did you work together? 

You do forget 

We met in the evening, I think about every two weeks. 
Somebody would read a paper on an assigned topic, 
and then we'd discuss that, Just like a seminar class. 
It was in the Victorian period. It was a very enjoy 
able piece of work. I remember it with a lot of 
pleasure, and I knew the professor very well, of 

Then I had other courses, 
instead of the usual five. 

We took four courses 

Harvard around that time was going through changes in 
their educational system. What were things like at 

It was not so very different from what the system is 
now in a great many places, or was until recently. 
That is, you had a core, a required core of material, 
and you had to elect a department for your upper 
division work. Actually, what I did at Princeton was 
very much the same system as what they were doing at 
California in my day when I was there teaching. I 
think it's changed some now under recent student 

The work in the freshman and sophomore years was 
pretty much required, and then after that you elected 
a department and had some requirements in that, and 
some elect ives. I got a good deal out of my years at 
Princeton. I think I would have got that out of 
other colleges too. I of course got a good professional 
background in English work. That was very good there, 
and I was able to carry that on into graduate work 
very easily. 


Rless: Were you doing much writing? 

Stewart: A good deal. You see, classes were fairly small 

there. The preceptorial system was in effect then 
and you had a small group which met as well as a 
lecture system. That was the great change that 
Woodrow Wilson put in at Princeton, the preceptorial 
system. That was pretty much still intact at the 
time I went there. 

[additional material dictated 15 March 1972] 

In college I did very little writing except that 
which came along in connection with my courses, in 
what might be called an undergraduate scholarly tone. 
I did an honors thesis at the end of the course which 
was a study of the medieval element in Victorian 
literature, and it ran to ^0,000 words. I don't know 
what became of it. Probably it got thrown out some 
where when I went into the Army Just at the end of my 
college course. I wrote some poetry, and published 
two little poems in the college literary magazine, 
but I never was known around the campus as an author. 
I experimented with writing a short story or so as I 
went along. Nothing of importance. 

I took only one course in writing, and, as a 
matter of fact, almost nothing in that way was offered 
at Princeton at that time. Just in my senior year 
they established a course in what would now be called 
Creative Writing, and I took the section on verse- 
writing with Professor Arthur Kennedy, who was himself 
a poet of some standing. 

There was only one other student in the course, 
and we went out to Professor Kennedy's house one 
evening a week to meet there with him, as was the 
common custom with the preceptors of that time, to 
hold the classes at their houses. (A very good system 
with small classes, such as we had then.) 

The course was well "structured" as they would 
say these days. We had regular assignments for 
experiments in trying different kinds of verse. Once 
there would be an assignment in blank verse, and once 
in disyllabics, and so forth. We had very pleasant 
meetings, and I enjoyed the course very much. It was 
not a line that I followed later on, and I would 



Stewart : 




probably have done better to have taken the course 
In the short story, [end dictated material] 

Then I got a great deal out of the electives 
that I took, which I selected carefully. I've always 
thought of education even then I thought of It as 
opening up new fields to the mind. I had, for 
instance, a course in geology and a course in biology, 
as they called it, a very broad course in biology. 
I had a course in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, 
and two or three others, which opened up a great deal 
to me. I've always enjoyed new fields being opened 
up. Remember in my Autobiography, in the first 
chapter, about looking through the window? That was 
in a sense what I mean. 

So you didn't settle for a "gentleman's C" when you 
went to Princeton? 

Oh, no. I got a few bad grades, because I did elect 
things around that way. Not really bad, but not as 
good as I might. But I had a very high average as 
far as grades were concerned. I had a Junior year 
Phi Beta Kappa, which was pretty hard to get. I 
graduated third in the class. If I hadn't wandered 
around taking some of those outside courses, I would 
have been higher, 

Do you remember any particularly good advisors, 
guidance that you got during those years? 


Stewart: The professor with whom we worked in this small class 
was Professor Parrot t, who was a good man. I got a 
lot out of him. Then J. Duncan Spaeth was a great 
character on the faculty. He coached the crew besides 
being professor of English, and I knew him pretty 
well. I got quite a good deal out of him. On the 
whole, however, I've never been the kind of student 
who was taken up by a professor, and so I don't look 
upon my education as particularly tied up with 
individual professors. I've thought about that, and 
see, right now I'm beginning to think about doing 
this chapter in my Autobiography, so I had to think 
a little bit along these lines I've never been a 
protlge. I always worked on own, really, and 
professors didn't mean too much to me. The same thing 
was true of my graduate work. I did it, and brought 
it in, and they said, "Okay." But they didn't give 
me much direction. That's a great strength, but of 



Stewart: course it's also to some extent a weakness. 

mess: It sounds like you were going in directions of your 

Stewart: I don't know about that. I had a fairly conventional 
course. I wasn't in rebellion against the establish 
ment particularly. But I Just within my own limits 
I Just was working on my own. 

Riess: Your interest in metrics must have begun back then. 

Stewart: I think it did, yes. I think that was a natural 

interest I had. You're thinking of my Ph.D. thesis, 
and the other book I did on metrics, yes, and I did 
several articles also. 

Riess: What was it about metrics that interested you? 

Stewart: Oh, I suppose a liking for poetry as it existed in 

those days. Of course, Jo (Miles) thinks I'm. a great 
enemy of poetry, but I'm not really. Just certain 
kinds of poetry I don't like. Again, there, I had a 
kind of original idea, worked mostly on my own, and 
I didn't owe much of anything to any professor on 
that thesis. 

Riess: I wonder if in your interest in place names, and 

naming, the sense of the rhythm and metrics is very 

Stewart: I think it is, yes. There's a certain romantic sense 
about the names, which is very strong with me. I 
love passages in poetry that are full of proper names. 
Some of them go way back. There's a passage in the 
Homeric hymns, a Hymn to Apollo, which is built up 
about place names. I love that. 

Riess: Were you reading poetry in earlier years than college? 

Stewart: Yes, the sort of thing you'd expect. Macaulay's Lays 
of Ancient Rome t and the Ancient Mariner, and things 
like that. 

Hiess: Did you "declaim" that is the word for standing up 
and doing iff 

Stewart: No, not much. I've never been much good at that. I 

don't have a very good voice, and I did it mostly Just 


Reprinted from NAMES 




[This interview was recorded on June 29, 1959, at Verkeley, California. The inter- 
viettee is George R. Stewart (indicated below by the. initial S). The interviewer it Joseph 
M. Backus (indicated below by the letter I). The original interview hat been edited, and 
the final text hat been checked by Mr. Stewart for accuracy. This it the second such 
interview to appear in Names, the first having been with C. S. Foretter (Vol. 1, [1953], 
pp. 245 to 251)]. 

I. Mr. Stewart, the readers of Names know your work on place names and other 
actual names. But, as a novelist, you have also worked with character names. Can 
you tell mo how many novels you have written T 

S. That's an easy question for a first one. I havo written (even novels. 

I. Can you give mo an idea how many character names in all you have originated 
in your novels T 

S. Just for a very quick estimate, I should say that I might have applied at 
least two hundred fictional names for characters, and in addition there would b 
perhaps half as many names for animals, ships, and especially for places. 

I. You have probably mode up more place names than most novelists have. 
Wouldn't you Bay so ? 

S. Yes, I suppose that has been something of a specialty of mine, probably 
because I have boon particularly interested in place names. 

I. I remember you have also named storms, forest fires, years and probably 
some other inanimate objects as well. But before considering such names, I would 
like to ask about the names of human characters. In looking over your novels, I 
have found that Doctor's Oral contains what I suspect to be th largest number of 
character names forty. Have you used any more than that in any one of your 
other novels T 

S. I should think that there would bo moie in Fire and The Years of the City 
and certainly so, if you count names of places. 

I. In any case since, in dealing with academic life, Doctor's Oral comes close 
to your own experience I should imagine its character names would have to havo 
been chosen in a way that would insure their not being identified with actual per 
sons. To achieve this end, was any system of coinage used for these names ? 

S. I should not say that there was any actual system used. I took care with the 
unpleasant characters to have names which probably cither did not exist or would 
be very lare. For instance, with Professor Martiuess I made up a name which as 
far as I know docs not exist, but which in my mind was a kind of combination of 
Martin and Martinez. It was also suitable enough, because of being thus made up, it 
was a somewhat exotic name for an exotic character. 

I. Another unlikeable faculty member, Professor Brice, however, bears an 
actual surname that is not uncommon. Did this name cause the character to be 
identified with any real person T 



54 Interview 

S. Not so far iui I know. The whole name, J. MacNair lirico, is an unlikely 
combination, and ulso seemed suitable for tho character, being a somewhat gadget/ 
name for a rather gadgety i>erson. 

I. For tliis novel, did you draw from lists of actual names, such as telephone 
directories or college catalogues as novelists are sometimes said to do J 

S. I don't think that I have ever used such lists. In The Years of the City, I 
compiled one for myself. That story deals with a very early time in Greek history 
when I would have had some difficulty knowing which names were in use. I went 
through some works which deal with this little known period, and from them 
compiled a list of about a hundred names actually recorded from that time. I kept 
this list handy when writing the book, and generally picked iny names from it. 

I. Did you over make use of tho names of friends or actual persons for fictional 
purposes ? 

S. Yes - but I think in only the two novels, Fire and Earth Abides. For Fire, 
I had to draw a detailed fictional map of the whole region, and this involved supply 
ing fictional place names. I tried to proportion these so that tho name-pattern would 
give tho effect that might be expected in the region that is, there were some 
descriptive names, some incident names, and so forth. In this way, T used the names 
of a number of my friends on Hart Creek, for example and they all seemed 
quite pleased with it. Rather amusingly, however, one of them told me ho was dis 
appointed because his name appeared on tho map, but he did not find it in the text. 
The reason, of course, was that I had put the names all on the map, but it was not 
actually needful to uso that particular name in the story. I also made a few references 
to professors in the University in that book, who are real professors, also my friends. 
In Earlh Abides, I used my own house in the story. At that time, I lived on San 
Luis Road in Berkeley, and so I used San Lupo Drive. That made it seem natural 
to refer to some of my neighbors, who lived on tho street, and so, incidentally, the 
Hart name came in again. One of the boys there aftei wards yelled at ine reproach 
fully because I had put the Hatficlds' cat in the book, but did not mention his own 
dog. Hutsonville in that book has also been noted by one of my friends as being 
named for him. 

I. Sometimes in your novels the name of a character appears without intro 
duction, as the first word. But tho chief character in Earth Abides is known only as 
"ho" until he identifies himself by means of his signature after the first four pages. 
Can you tell the purpose of withholding the name ? 

S. I think that I withheld the name because here and elsewhere throughout 
that book I was trying to universalize the effect as much as possible, in order to 
make the reader feel some identification with the chief character. 

I. Another question about the same character why did you choose the unusual 
imme Ishcrwood Williams for tho character who survives a cosmic disaster and 
becomes the ro-founder of the human race ? 

S. You are getting, now, really deep into professional secrets. If I was going to 
give him the name Ishcrwood, a very uncommon one, 1 would naturally balance it 
to some extent by giving him a common family name, so that his full name would 
not seem entirely impossible. The real question, however, involves Jsherwood, 
though ho is not called that in the book. Ho is known as Ish, and Isherwood was 


Jntrruiew 55 

the name Hint I gave liitn so t hut ho would have a name from which Jih could bo 
derived. The use of Ish itself is merely a variant of the device frequently used by 
novelists and dramatists to givo their characters universality, Although at the same 
time to conceal it, so that the name becomes a private, or genii-private, code. In 
short, ish in Hebrew means "man." 

I. Ish'g wife is called Em, short for Emma. Docs this name have significance T 

S Well, the Hebrew for woman is isfiah, which is, incidentally, now the trade 
name of a widely advertised perfume. But I could not very well have Ish roeet a girl 
named Ishah. Em, however, is really a mother-character, and em means "mother" 
in Hebrew. 

I. Are there any more names in Earth Abides that have similar significance T 

S. Most of them do not. The only other significant name is Ezra, which means 
"helper" in Hebrew. In fact, near the end of the book, Ish refers to Ezra as "my 
good helper." 

I. Did any of your readers understand the significance of these names T 

S. At least one person wrote me. I think he was a rabbi. Rather interestingly, he 
inquired if I knew what the names meant, or had stumbled on them by accident. 

I. Do names in your other novels have any special significance ? 

S. I have avoided giving names, like Mr. Goodhart or Miss Flutters, which label 
character crudely. If I have dono thia, it has at least been covered up by some 
foreign languugo and hat) not been, I hope, too obvious. On the whole, I think that 
my uso of names has become more froo and imaginative, as my novels have pro 
gressed and I got a greater feeling of competence in what I was doing. 

I. Do you think that moving in this direction represents an improvement in 
novelistic technique ? 

S. I am hardly the one to make such a judgment. Probably the reason why I 
have moved in this direction has been that I was trying, more and more, to uni 
versalize the experience in my novels. In The Years of the City, I used a device which 
one reviewer spotted and did not like. That novel is in four parts, each one centered 
in a particular character, who is in each case the son of the preceding one. As the 
reviewer noted, the names of these characters ran in a series A, B, C, D for their 
initials. (Actually, I suppose it should have been A, B, G, D, since that is the order 
of the Greek alphabet.) I still treasure the detail, however, that the reviewer did not 
notice there are five in the series, because there is finally a character who is supposed 
to carry the story on still farther, and his name begins with an E. These names also 
had some slight significance, or suggestion of it, as is pointed out in the book itself 
here and there. Archias, while a real Greek name of the early period, suggests the 
beginning, as we sec in the word "archaic" itself. Bion, his son, has a name derived 
from a word meaning "life," and it is suggested in the book that he is given this 
name as a good omen, since he is born to his parents as a first child when his father 
is already old and so there is the particular need that ho should cling to life. It is 
also a good name in the course of the novel, since Bion represents the strength of 
the city. Callias is from the word meaning "beauty," and this suggests that the city 
has left its period of strength and is moving on to a kind of aesthetic middle age. 
Diothemis is probably rather bad Greek, but I coined it with the suggestion that it 
would mean the judgment of God, since Diothemis lives in the time of the city when 


56 Inter oicw 

it is approaching destruction, partly because of the sins of the fathers. The last one 
is Eschatz, which is obviously not good Greek. I used it to iuggC8t that things had 
gone to pieces very badly, and that this barbiirisra (really a mimmdoi stood baby 
name) was to bo connected with the Greek word meaning "last." 

I. Can you toll me something about the name of the city itself - Phrax T 

S. More time and thought went into the selection or fabrication of that mono 
syllabic name than the reader might imagine. In the first place, there is, as far as I 
know, no such name in the records of antiquity. For my city, I wanted a "practical" 
name, that is, one which would not give too much trouble in pronunciation and one 
which would yield a good ethnic name - that is, Phragians - for the citizens of that 
city. I also did not want a Greek name, because the Greeks very rarely used a Greek 
name for one of their cities. So 1 made up a name from mere sounds, with tlio 
suggestion that this was some barbarous local name which the Greeks had taken over. 
There is a scene in the novel describing how they learned what the name of the place 
was. I used the same general practice for the other place names of the novel that 
is, they are not Greek and have no meaning. 

I. When you plan a novel, do you work out the place names and the names of 
characters before you begin to write T 

S. Yes, I do. Of course, in writing a novel, one often has to use names for charac 
ters who may just appear incidentally, and it is not ]>osMiblo to think up names for 
them all in advance. On the whole, I would say that this is a good practice to have 
names worked out ahead of time in so far as it is {wssible. When you are using a map, 
for instance, it becomes almost obligatory to get the names on the map proj>erly, or 
you will get into difficulty and inconsistency before the end of the book. 

I. Among the characters in your novels, do you have a favorite name ? 

S. There are many such names ones that I like. But at this time I might say 
that I think anyone most of all perhaps the author himself must have difficulty 
in separating his feeling about the name from his feeling about the character. If 
a character comes off successfully, you have a feeling that the name, too, comes off 
successfully, and so is a suitable name. In fact, this brings me to say something 
about characters' names more in general. Although there would seem to be "suit 
able" names, the matter is not as simple as some people think. It seems to me 
something of a chicken-egg problem as to which came first. It is like the argument 
as to whether a certain line of poetry is a good line because of its haunting rhythm or 
whether wo think it to have a haunting rhythm because it is a good line to begin 
with. But to return to characters - when Shakespeare wrote a tragedy about Ham 
let, did he think that Hamlet was a particularly good name for a tragic hero ? After 
Hamlet proved to be a supremely successful tragedy, the name, by that very process, 
became a suitable one for a tragic hero. If I/amlel had been a comic play, doubtless 
Hamlet would be a good name for a comic character. In other words, if a character 
comes off successfully, you naturally begin to think that his name is a suitable name 
for that sort of character. 

I. Can you give an example from your own work T 

S. Well, a very minor character who appoars in both Storm and Fire is Johnny 


Interview 57 

1. Why Ho you call him Johnny instead of John ? 

S. OJi, just because ho ia never mentioned except as Johnny though that, of 
course, brings up the much larger question as to how much existence a character 
may be said to have in a novelist's imagination aside from what goes on pajjcr. 
1 suppose on tho books of the utility company for which he worked ho was carried as 
John, but he is always Johnny in tho novel. And since Johnny Martley makes a 
pair of good trochees, that is undoubtedly one reason I think of it as a suitable name 
for a character who had a lot of energy and a certain amount of jauntincss. 

I. Gelett Burgess, in discussing character names, indicated that he used geo 
graphical prefixes and suffixes to suggest a character's aristocratic background. Did 
you have any similar ideas in using Hawkhurst, or Holtby ? 

S. Everyone is likely to have certain associations with name-elements. I do not 
think that 1 have any particular predilection for names containing elements re 
ferring to place, even though I used those you mention. I think I have used such 
names somewhat commonly, because, by taking the elements of names apart, and 
then reeombining them, you are often able to coin a name which seems quite familiar, 
and yet may not exist at all and is therefore a safe name for a novelist to use. 
Holtby may be an example. It looks like a regular name, but I don't think you will 
find it in the telephone book. 

I. Can you say which of your names have been best accepted by readers ? 

S. I have always been pleased with the acceptance of Ponderosa National 
Forest. The. name is in itself an obvious one, since "ponderosa" is the name of a 
common typo of pine. To create the forest, I shoved the Plumas and Tahoc forests 
apart, and put the Ponderosa between them. The name was successful enough to 
make people stop in at the southern-mast ranger station of the Plumas Forest and 
ask where the Ponderosa Forest was. They had been driving north through tho 
Tahoe, expecting to come to tho Ponderosa, but suddenly found themselves in the 

I. In an article in Names [3(1955), p. 34], Erwin Gudde indicated that Storm 
established a precedent that meteorologists have since followed in assigning girls' 
names to hurricanes. 

S. I believe that is correct. Tho question might still be raised, however, why I 
called the storm Maria. As I have indicated in an introduction I wrote for a later 
edition of the novel, the name is to be pronounced in the English and not in tho 
Spanish manner. For some reason, quite possibly because of the sound, Maria has 
come to have in English a certain loud and boisterous quality. At least, it had that 
association for me, and I think that this U why the storm got the name it did. . . . 
Going back to your earlier question, I suppose that I would really have to say, on 
my own premises, that Maria is my favorite name. At least, it seems to be the most 
successful ono It has been used in a song-hit, in the line "They call the wind Maria." 
I have also heard on the radio that "the storm was a regular Maria" and seen such 
references as "Maria has become a part of American folklore." 

I. Is there anything you would liko to add generally about the names in your 
novels ? 

S. I could certainly say a great deal more, but I think that perhaps Maria is as 
good a name as any with which to end. 


Stewart: In my own mind. I still do it, now, still repeat 

lots of poetry to myself. Usually stuff I've known 
for many years. I've found that my mind doesn't pick 
it up as easily as it used to. What I know is mostly 
what I've had for many years. But I still like the 
sound of the words, and the way they fall into 

Riess: During the years you were in the Army, 1917-1920, did 
you keep studying on your own? 

Stewart: By that time I had pretty well decided to go into 

graduate work in English, and I kept on reading along 
those lines. I read Tom Jones for the first time, I 
remember, while I was in the Army. My service was all 
in this country, and books were fairly easy to get. 
We usually had some kind of camp library, and you had 
a good deal of time in the Army like that, not out on 
active duty. So I got a great deal of reading done. 
I even studied Anglo-Saxon. I did the first course 
in Anglo-Saxon by myself in the Army. I never had a 
beginning course when I was at college, but I went 
into the Beowulf class at the graduate level at 
Columbia, and did the work successfully. 

Riess: You Just had a textbook, and worked your way through? 

Stewart: Yes. Of course I don't think that's too good, because 
you get a kind of skewed knowledge. I think you 
ought to have the formal discipline. But I've worked 
out a lot of stuff by myself. 

Over the course of the years I have taught myself 
a great many subjects, but I am not really sure that 
I am particularly outstanding in that respect, for I 
think that a great many people do that as they go 
along, if they are professors or otherwise Indulge 
in intellectual work. I have never had a class in 
Spanish, but I have taught myself pretty well to read 
for scholarly purposes. I have also taught myself 
enough to do something with Portuguese and Dutch. I 
taught a Middle English course for many years, but 
the only work I had in Middle English in class was 
a course or two in Chaucer. Even in American literature 
I was largely self-taught. 

In the study of place names I suppose that I am 
one of the leading scholars of the world, but I never 
had a course in it. As a matter of fact, it is not 


Stewart: a field, in which courses are generally given. I 

think, however, you will find that many professors 
have thus worked up fields for themselves. 

Aside from not having been very much influenced 
by formal disciplines, I have also been a lonely 
scholar, and have not been greatly Influenced by 
people with whom I have associated. I have never 
gone to meetings very much. I didn't feel the need 
of it, though I would probably have enjoyed going if 
things had worked out more in that way. Self-reliance 
to that degree is good on the whole, I believe. But 
it may be an eccentricity of scholarship, and may 
lead to bad mistakes here and there. 

(One thing I've said about this bookbinding 
interest of mine is, "I'm going to take a course and 
get this started right." Then the course was so bad, 
I really didn't learn much from it. But I get some 
thing out of Harry Roberts [bookmender] over at 
Bancroft. ) 

Riess: Where did you learn your research techniques? 

Stewart: I must have picked them up myself, and I've always 
felt rather weak in one department; I never have 
mastered the question of getting bibliographies 
together properly. I'm sure there must be some point 
when I should have learned to do that better than I 
do. Maybe there isn't. I don't know. Maybe it's 
a thing nobody can do, altogether; the very fact that 
you're trying to find it means that you have to go 
at it hit or miss, and you find what comes along. 

Graduate study was not very well organized in 
my day really. 

Riess: You're talking about the year at Berkeley? 

Stewart: Yes, and Columbia. Now, for instance, they always 
have a course on bibliography, on getting material 

I was saved on this American Place Names book by 
the bibliography that a couple of librarians got out.* 

*R. B. Sealock, and. P. A. Seely, Bibliography of Place 
Names Literature. Chicago, 194-8. 


Stewart: They were actually Inspired by my Names on the Land 

to do the work I Their volume was absolutely essential 
to me. I never would have even tried the Job If I 
hadn't had that bibliography. That gave me a check 
that I was not missing anything of great importance, 
at least. 

Riess: You speak in There Was Light of the Influence of 
Herbert Bolt on.* That was your first feeling for 
Western history? 

Stewart: Yes, it was. Very definitely. 

Riess: But then you went back to Columbia and did the metrics 
thing. Why didn't you stay here? They were not 
giving a Ph.D. yet? 

Stewart: They were giving a Ph.D. but they'd only given two or 
three I suppose, and the department was rather badly 
organized. Gayley was Just retiring. They didn't 
have really good work on the graduate level at that 

Riess: Why did you come here for the master's, actually? 

Stewart: Well, partly I wanted to make the contacts here, 

because I had lived in California, and I liked the 
idea of being in California and I figured one way to 
make contacts was to come here for this year. 
(Actually it worked out very well. I've been here 
ever since the wisdom of the serpent.) And it was 
a good enough place to do master's work in. I had 
thought it was better than it was when I came here. 
Actually it was not a very good place, but it worked 
out all right for that. 

Riess: Did you have the work on R. L. Stevenson in mind when 
you came here? 

Stewart: No, I didn't. I developed that after I came here. 
It was a very good idea too. It worked out very 
well. I told about that in that little chapter 
you're speaking of. 

*There Was Light. Autobiography of a University, 
Berkeley; 1968, edited by Irving Stone, 
Doubleday, 1970, p. 



Stewart: What might have been done and what could have 
been done I thought about it vaguely was carrying 
that on for a Ph.D. thesis, and doing the whole 
contact of Stevenson with the United States, which 
might have been all right. I started to work at 
Columbia with Carl Van Doren. I wanted to get into 
American literature. I had made up my mind on that 
too, although I had a very bad background in it 
because Princeton didn't teach any American literature, 
So I started in to work on it with Carl Van Doren 
and he started me working on what really was the 
study of reputations of American writers in England. 
And I did that study on Whitman, which I published, 
a little essay. 

I got discouraged on that really because, I 
think, as I look upon it now, he didn't handle me 
right. He threw me into it, and the thing looked too 
big to me. I realize now it could have been cut down. 
That's what a professor should have done. He should 
have said, "Look here, you can't do all that. You've 
got to cut this down, and get a definite limitation." 
As a matter of fact, after I decided to quit it, and 
take up something else, he told me that, but he made 
his mistake by not handling me that way beforehand. 
If I'd done, say, three people, that would have been 
plenty I think. I could, have done Whitman, and 
Emerson and Thoreau, or something like that. That 
would have been plenty. In fact now, the way they do 
theses, they probably would have done half of Whitman. 
The scale of theses is getting more and more minute. 

But that's the time when I quit that and went 
into the metrics. I thought I had a good idea to 
work on, and it was something I could encompass. I 
did an awful lot of work, but I got through it in 
pretty fast time. Much to everybody's surprise, I 
think, in the graduate school there. 

Stewart : 


Were you working with somebody on that? 

Well, I was working with Professor [Ashley Horace] 
Thorndyke, but not really. I mean he wasn't doing 
much. He Just let me stew around, but I came out 
all right. 

Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau. 

Did you like those 


Stewart: Not particularly. I Just mentioned those as examples. 

Riess: I had a feeling from something I read that you have 
no use for Thoreau. 

Stewart: Well, I don't know what you read you say something 
I wrote? 

Riess: Probably it was one of those times when I assumed that 
the hero was speaking for you.* 

Stewart: Yes. Well, I don't know. I am pretty ambiguous about 
Thoreau, particularly when they start crying him up 
as the great prophet of democracy. Thoreau is not a 
democrat Thoreau' s an anarchist, and I think I don't 
go for Thoreau too much. Or Emerson either, as far 
as that's concerned. I took Emerson's primary advice, 
that is, "Be self-reliant." Having said that, I 
didn't need any more Emerson, [laughter] 

No, I mentioned those three Just because they 
would be good examples of that particular thing. You 
see, Whitman and Thoreau were more appreciated in 
England for a long time than they were in the United 
States. Perhaps not Emerson. But they would be 
examples. Melville would have been a good example, 
of course. 

But for my Ph.D. thesis I ran through practically 
all English poetry from 1700 down to 1900* and put 
that together! Of course I looked upon the Ph.D. as 
a thing you ought to get into and get over with, and 
I think that's the right attitude toward a Ph.D. So 
many of these people go at it as if the Ph.D. thesis 
were going to be their great work in life. Often 
that's what it amounts to, with people working for 
years and years, and they grow old before they even 
get their Ph.D. Once you get your Ph.D., you're a 
great deal freer to do what you want to do than you 
were before. So I looked upon it as something which 
should be kept within scope, so it could get finished 
up, and then you can do things without the supervision 
of somebody else. 

Riess: Your dissertation, fl[od,ern Metrical Technique, was 
then privately published in 1922. 

*See Sheep Rock. 



Stewart: Well, that was a crazy business. It was the rule at 
Columbia at that time. We had to publish It a very 
bad rule. I think It stemmed back to the old German 
system, and of course in the German system publication 
was pretty cheap, and they were very small theses, 
generally, so the expense was probably not too much. 
But the American theses tended to run a lot longer, 
so the expense of publication became a serious matter. 
I beat that game, as It happened, because I had this 
disability from the Army, and there was a kind of G.I. 
bill at that time it didn't amount to very much but 
they would pay tuition and that kind of thing. I put 
it up to them, and said, M I f ve got to publish this to 
get my degree." [laughing] I had a good case and 
they published it! They did an awful Job of it, 
though. They Just took my manuscript and printed it, 
and I never even saw a proof on the thing, so it was 
really a shame. If they put all that money into 
doing it, they should have done it with care. I was 
ashamed to show it to anybody, it was so full of 
typographical errors. 

Riess: Is The Technique of English Verse (Holt & Co., 1930), 
based on your dissertation? 

Stewart: No, it's considerably different. Different approach. 
The dissertation was really historical. 

Rless: I see. 

Did you have a commitment from Berkeley to come 
back and teach? 

Stewart: No. I went to Columbia, and I hardly heard from 

Berkeley for a couple of years, and then after I'd 
accepted that position at Michigan, they made me an 
offer, which I didn't feel I could accept under the 
circumstances. So I went to Michigan for a year, 
and then they made me an offer again; so I took it 
that time. 

Riess: Then you returned to Berkeley in 1923 to teach. 

Stewart: I had a really I had a pretty frustrating time for 
a good many years in Berkeley. It didn't work out 
too well. I got stalled in the assistant professor 
rank for a long time. I was in the shade of a lot 
of people. 

Riess: Was It the field that you were in? You mean, in the 
shade in terms of teaching? 

Stewart: Yes, other people senior to me in the same field, 
and I guess I Just wasn't too good in those days. 
I got better, then. 

Riess: Did anybody ever pop in and listen to you lecture and 
give you pointers? Was there any sort of follow-up 
on teaching? 

Stewart: Almost none. 

Riess: Was it kind of painful for you to teach? 

Stewart: Oh, teaching was never painful to me. I wasn't the 
kind of person that was worried too much about that. 
There are people of course who never get comfortable 
before a class. No, that didn't bother me too much, 
but I wanted to get into American literature and I 
did eventually, but it was a long time before I really 
got a chance. And that's when I got into teaching 
Chaucer and Middle English, which I really had no 
business doing at all. But I enjoyed that, and I got 
a lot out of it. I think I did some good teaching 
in that too. 

I experimented with various fields, which I 
think is all right. I like to teach different things. 
I taught Shakespeare for a little while. I never 
took very well to teaching Shakespeare though, 
probably because I didn't like the way the course 
was organized. It was not a course in which I was 
free. It was a course which was organized for 
departmental ends, and I had to fit into a certain 
pattern. I didn't go on very far with that. The 
Chaucer course I organized on my own, and then I took 
on that Middle English course, which I taught for 
a good many years. 

Riess: Did you get into cross-departmental things in those 

early years? I think of your interest, for Instance, 
in geology and biology. Did you make a broad thing 
out of your courses? 

Stewart: No, I don't think so particularly. I believe in 
sticking to your last on that kind of a course. 

Riess: You seem like such an interdisciplinary person. 


Stewart: Yes. I don't think I did much on those lines. Of 
course you always have to get into some historical 
background. I always enjoyed that. I'm an example 
to some extent of the uses of adversity in all that 
time, because the very fact that I wasn't working 
well in any particular line, I was Just hanging on, 
I wasn't particularly successful, I was looking 
around for other things to do, that's when I got 
the good idea about Ordeal by Hunger, which was 
really kind of a key book with me.* (Well, I guess 
the Bret Harte book was too.**) That showed me I 
could really turn out a book. And then, with the 
idea about the Dormer Party, I got away, strictly 
speaking, from the departmental field, and got 
confidence to go ahead along that line. 

But I wouldn't ever have done that if things 
had been going along well for me, probably, in other 

Riess: Are you saying, "Thank goodness, I didn't take so 

well to teaching." Or is it not really important to 
you that you were almost forced into doing the 

Stewart: Well, I think I probably had a more interesting life 
the way it worked out than I would the other way. 
But I don't know. For instance, well, say I'd gone 
ahead more rapidly, promo tions^in the department. 
Say I had been somebody's protege, somebody shoved 
me ahead, the way it often happens in any kind of 
work. Say I'd got to be instructor of graduate 
students, directing theses, that sort of thing. It's 
a very fine life. Actually I envy a man who has a 
lot of old Ph.D. students around. It's wonderful. 
A man like Joel Hildebrand, for instance. I have 
only four that I've directed. If things had gone 
along in that line, I would have been doing some 
writing, of course, some research work, I always 
would, no matter what I was doing, I would have done 
that. That would have been a very good life too. 
As it was, I was still an assistant professor when I 

*0rdeal by Hunger, the Story of the Dormer Party. 
Holt & Co., New York, 1936. 

**Bret Harte. Argonaut and Exile, Houghton Mifflin & 
Co., New York, 1931. 


Stewart: published the Bret Harte book. I didn't get my 

promotion after that either, though I really had it 
coming to me. 

In a sense I'd got to feeling, well, I've done 
enough work up there to get my promotion, but they 
won't promote me, so what's the use of doing a lot 
more just to get my associate professorship? The 
Donner Rarty had always appealed to me as a great 
story which ought to be written. So I pretty 
consciously said, "What have I got to lose? I might 
as well risk something and do this." I had a 
wonderful time doing it. And the book is still going 
along, very nicely. 

Riess: This was in the Montgomery department that you were 

Stewart: Oh, well, before that too, even when Durham was 

chairman. Then it got worse. I did get my promotion 
to associate professor in there somewhere, but it was 
awfully slow. 

Riess: So you really have to believe in the power of 

departmental politics and selling yourself and all 
that kind of thing. 

Stewart: Well, that's the sort of thing I never was very good 

Riess: It amazes me that you can at this point say that one 
life would have been as good and as rewarding as 
another. As I read your English department history, 
I felt your sense of how Walter Morris Hart was a 
tragic figure, and yet he had obviously had all of 
the things that you are describing as being desirable, 
the graduate students, and the contacts .* 

Stewart: No, he didn't have too much. Not really. He was in 
the position of being frustrated. You see, he never 
really came back after he was in the administrative 
work. He never caught up with what had happened in 
the meantime. 

*The Department of English of the University of 
California on the Berkeley Campus, by George R. 
Stewart, University of California, 1968, p. 2*4-. 



Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Then you are describing the dangers of the too rapid 

I don't think rapid assent is all bad. When a man 
has the stuff, I think that's when you should push 
him as hard as you can. Maybe I shouldn't have been 
pushed; that may be all right. I'm not complaining 
of that particularly. But I think either being 
pushed too fast or held back too much is likely to 
be bad for a man. 

They've got men in the department now who have 
made full professor, oh, at not much over thirty. 
I think there's a question of whether that's a good 
thing for them or not. Maybe it will be, I wouldn't 
be surprised. I talked to one of them the other day, 
and said, "Now you've done everything at thirty-two, 
what are you going to spend the rest of your life 

That shocked him a little. It's a problem, 
Is he going to keep on going through 

doing? 11 

Just the same. 

the same old round of stuff, turning out Ph.D. 
candidates? That's a long time from thirty- two to 

Because why? Why isn't it Just like a Job? Lots of 
people do repetitive Jobs. 

Well, of course, that's what would never satisfy me. 
I don't think it will satisfy this man either, 
probably. I don't think that's what a professor 
should be. 

It sounds risky to attain goals too early. 

I think it is. I've known people around universities 
that would seem to illustrate that, people who I 
think were pushed too fast in the sense of never 
having to work for what they got, or didn't go on 
beyond a certain point. Of course you have this 
whole problem about aging. There are brilliant under 
graduates who never got anywhere beyond that, and 
brilliant graduate students who never amount to 
anything afterwards. And I think you have brilliant 
young professors I think it's a kind of aging 
process, often. They reach a certain stage, and 
they don't develop beyond that. 

What I was thinking about was when I was in 
college, once with some friends we laid down our 

J f. 

Stewart ; 


ambitions in life [laughing], the way people will 
at that time. I had the usual things, about having 
a good Job and a nice family and so forth, the usual 
bourgeois ambitions. And then I remember something 
that I've often thought of since, that I wanted to 
have some kind of work that was expanding, so I'd 
always be pushed harder, always have the sense of 
being pushed harder to do the next thing. I really 
kept that up. I really had that kind of life. And 
I've always felt a sense of, "This next book is going 
to be the best book I've ever done. It's going to 
be something different from the last one." I've 
always managed to keep that up quite well. I haven't 
lost it altogether yet. Of course that's one of the 
great problems with aging. You get to the point 
where you can't quite do it. But this book I'm 

working on now is plenty tough! 
going to be plenty big too. 

[laughing] It's 

(I was sitting here two nights ago and the 
telephone rang. It was the Metropolitan Museum in 
New York. Some girl was surely working overtime, 
because it was about nine or ten o'clock back there. 
They wanted to use two pictures out of my U.S. *fO. 
That's nice, you know. Called up the next morning, 
and they wanted to use two more. So there is the 
sense of still going to expand, to go on a little 
bit more. That's very important to me. You were 
speaking about doing a routine job I couldn't 
Oh, I suppose I could do it, after all, I'd adapt 
enough so that I could do it, but that wouldn't ever 
be what I would think of doing. ) 

Riess: You said the Bret Harte book was a key book for you. 

Stewart: Yes, it was, and I wrote most of that book in Prance. 
You see, I had a sabbatical year (June 1930-1931), 
and I squeezed it out some way or other so that I 
was able to take the family to Europe. I got a little 
break, and got some money from this Army disability. 
They made a kind of payment, and that was enough. I 
was terribly hard up. 

Riess: How did you get the materials to work on it in Prance? 

Stewart: I took them along. I'd done all the work and had my 
notes. I had worked in the Huntington Library quite 
a bit on that. There's quite a bit of material there. 
Oh, I worked around a great deal in a small way. I 

*George R. Stewart, U.S. *K). Houghton Mifflin, 1953- 


' . f. 


Stewart: was up at the American Antiquarian Society, and I 

went out to Springfield, Massachusetts. They had a 
file at the Springfield Republican that I had to 
use. Things were harder to get at in those days. 
Now there's so much reproduction, you don't have to 
move around necessarily. 

Riess: Sounds like that would be expensive too, to do your 
own research and have to get yourself places. 

Stewart: Well, of course, I did that on the way to Europe. 
Riess: Did you have a publisher? 

Stewart: Well, I had a kind of contract with Houghton-Mifflin. 
No commitment, no advance. One of their men was over 
in France Just about the time I was coming home. I 
had the book all done, and he read it, and they gave 
me a contract then. So I didn't actually wait around, 
although they pretty near failed then. It was when 
the depression was Just hitting. They wanted to put 
off publication, but I insisted on getting it published, 
After all, it was worth a lot to me Just to publish it, 
whether it sold or not. It didn't sell. It was 
terrible at that time. But at least I got it on my 

Riess: Did you think that this would be the thing that would 
Jump you up to an associate professorship? 

Stewart: Well, it should have been, certainly. I already had 
the metrics book out, and several articles, scholarly 
articles. I had plenty of work as far as the well, 
a lot more work than most people who are promoted to 
associate professor. 

Riess: I have a copy of a letter here that was written in 

1935 [April 15, 1935], recommending you for promotion 
signed by A.G. Brodeur, J. Lowenberg, J.H. Hildebrand, 
S.G. Morley, J.S.P. Tatlock, M.C. Flaherty; and 
C. Pasohall is the chairman. 

Stewart: I never saw that letter. 
Riess: It's very impressive. 

Stewart: Well, those letters have got to be impressive. That 
was a faculty review committee, you know. Does it 


Stewart: say I was recommended by the department? 

Bless: Yes. It says, "His teaching, while seemingly not 

distinguished, is regarded as sound and satisfactory. 
He has assisted in administrative work conscientiously 
and well, where it has been asked of him, both in 
the department and in the University at large. He 
is esteemed and liked by those who know him best, 
and it is felt that he is a man who will continue to 
grow in intellectual and scholarly usefulness. 

"It is the unanimous recommendation of the 
committee that Professor Stewart be promoted to an 
associate professorship. We feel that promotion in 
this case has been unduly delayed, and that it should 
take precedence over any other case in the Department 
of English." 

Stewart: Well, that's handsome I I knew some of those people 
were involved in my promotion of course I wasn't 
promoted at that time. Let's see. Or was I? Yes, 
I guess I was. 

Morley was a very good friend of mine. I knew 
he supported me. He told me he was on two of my 
committees. This must have been at least the second 
time I was up before a committee. Hildebrand's a man 
whom I see frequently now. I think that's probably 
the first time he ever focussed on me. I don't think 
he knew who I was before that time. And of course 
Tatlock had a lot of respect for me and my work. I 
think Brodeur probably did too. I see Brodeur 
occasionally now.* And the rest of those men I think 
would have been favorably enough disposed toward me. 
At least I don't think I had any enemies in that group. 
Who were they again, now? 

Riess: Well, you mentioned them all except for this name 
that I don't know, Paschall. 

Stewart: Yes, he was in the German department. I knew him 
slightly. I think he was friendly enough to me. 

Riess: And Martin Flaherty. 

*Arthur G. Brodeur may actually have died before this 
time, but G.R.S. had not heard of it. 


Stewart: He was in Speech. I don't know about him. 

(As I have stated this, it sounds as if I had 
been up for membership in a club or something. But 
when I put it that a man was friendly to me, I mean 
that it should be taken in a professional sense, that 
is, well-disposed toward my work in the University 
and my publication-record.) 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 


Did you come across a letter Gayley wrote for 

No. Was that also a letter for promotion? 

No. That was when I had finished my graduate work 
out here and got my master's degree. He wrote me 
sort of a general letter I could use for applying 
for a job. Of course, they are always laudatory, 
but Gayley wrote a particularly nice one. I gave 
that to Jim Kantor a year or so ago, for the 
University archives. 

Oh, I figured my promotion would come along 
sometime. Eventually I had what they call "moral 
tenure." I had been around so long that I couldn't 
very easily be got rid of; so I figured it would come 
sometime. I did think that it wasn't going to hurt 
me to try something else. 

It was important to you to be teaching and be connected 
with a university, I take it, because otherwise, why 
not just be a writer? 

Writing is too financially precarious, for one thing. 
You get yourself in an awful trap. Of course writing 
about Bret Harte was a good thing for me, as a matter 
of fact, [laughing] It showed me what a trap writing 
can be. He was a prime example of a man who should 
never have cut loose. He should have taken that job 
at the University of California when he had the chance. 
That would have changed his whole life. He probably 
would have written much better, and had a much better 
life all the way around. 

No, writing is for a man who writes as I do 
writing is a good servant, but a poor master. I never 
have had the real touch or facility of writing things 
that people buy in large quantities. I've had some 
books that have sold pretty well, but not many. But 







I did go on half time at the University, for about 
ten years. 

Benjamin Lehman said he didn't know how you could 
have kept going here under the Montgomery atmosphere. 
What did he mean? 

He has a very deep mind, Ben Lehman. I'd hate to 
try I've got enough trying to get out my own ideas 
here, without doing anything on him. 

You will see now more perhaps why I said in my 
Autobiography that I didn't think I'd had good luck 
when it came to my professional career. I've had 
bad breaks on that. 

But some of them turned out well. 

That's because I turned them around that way. I 
think the thing about Ben Lehman I can tell you an 
anecdote.. . 

I was walking in Wheeler Hall with him one day 
when he was chairman, and he was talking about some 
body who I think was on the Junior staff you know, 
Ben was always interested in all his people. He said, 
"You know, of course, he is talented, but very 
neurotic," and I said, "I get tired of so many of 
these neurotic people around here." He said, "Oh, 
you're Just as neurotic as any of them I " I said, 
"Yes, but I make my neuroses work for me." I think 
that's a quite profound statement. I've been able to 
chain them and direct them. I am probably as neurotic 
as the next man, but I channel it. 

I'm very curious what reactions you got from 
Ben. Anything more you want to tell me? [laughing] 

He said, "George Stewart built up the department a 
great deal In the flat years of Montgomery." What 
did he mean by that? 

I suppose by the writing I did. 
else much. 

I think not anything 

And he said it was amazing that you could keep going 
in the Montgomery atmosphere. In his interview he 


Rless: talked a lot about Montgomery.* 

Stewart: He probably knew a lot more about it than I did, as 
a matter of fact. He was in a better position to 
know. He was a full professor at that time. Of 
course he was one of the ones whom I criticized in 
my department book because they didn't do more about 

Ben withdrew considerably at that time. He 
really stopped writing in there entirely. His great 
contribution to the University was as department 
chairman, and as a presidential adviser. 

Bless: You wrote an amazing number of articles too. When 

you have an idea do you Just like to work it through 
on paper? 

Stewart: A few of them were compulsive. I get to thinking 
about something and I think about it for years, and 
finally I have to do it. Others were Just things of 
opportunity. Each was something that was nice to 
work at, and it might help with promotion if you 
were going to be promoted at all. Then of course 
when I got to writing the books I didn't do so much 
in the way of articles, except I got into that work 
in Names . and they needed articles. I did some because 
it was good for the journal. And I did others that 
way too. 

The articles sprang from all sorts of motivations. 
There are not nearly as many as many people have 
written, because I did so much in the way of books, 
too. I think they're more remarkable for the range 
of interest they show. Also certain themes keep 
coming out from a long way back, like the one I did 
on the stream forks in the Sierra Nevada, which was 
an early place-name study, which comes a long time 
before Names on the Land. 

You see anything I got an interest in, say from 
teaching, I tended to see in it something that could 
be written. There's even an article on Shakespeare 
in there, you know, a little note on Shakespeare, and 

*Benjamin H. Lehman, Recollections and Reminiscences 
of Life in the Bay Area from 1920 Onward. Regional 
Oral History Office, Berkeley, 1969. 


Stewart: one on Malory. And Chaucer of course too. I once 
figured out somebody asked me about this, and I 
figured out I had published something on every 
century of English literature from the l^th on down. 

Riess: When you were working on the articles, would you 

discuss them? Would you work through the ideas by 
talking to somebody? 

Stewart: Oh yes. I often talked to people about them. I 
don't find that that usually amounts to so much. 
People don't usually have any very great contribution 
to make, because they don't know enough about the 
subject. You're talking to them about something on 
which you know a great deal, and they only have a 
general idea. Oh yes, I've talked to lots of people 
about all sorts of things. I don't remember getting 
too much out of it that way, except with Storm and 

Riess: I was thinking also of the sort of competitive sense- 
like scientists when they come on to some discovery 
will quickly write it up. I wondered if that goes 
on in an English department, or in a humanities 

Stewart: I don't think it does, no. I don't know how much it 
goes on in science actually. Of course you hear 
about it. It's the folklore of science, about these 
things always being discovered at the same time, and 
somebody rushing into print. I don't know actually 
how often that happens. At least in my time in 
English studies, I don't remember any time that I 
got involved in that. I can't think of anything. 


It sometimes happens, of course. Now oh, it 
didn't really happen in this case but Jim Hart was 
much perturbed because this man in Iowa brought out 
a study of the popular literature in the United 
States Just at the time Jim was about finished with 
his Popular Book.* But actually the two things 

*James David Hart, The Popular Book, A History of 
America's Literary Taste, New York, Oxford University 
Press, 1950. 


Stewart: didn't coincide too much. I don't know quite why 

that is, but you don't find too many examples of it 
happening. At least you didn't. I think it may now, 
because there are so many more people working on 
things. There's Just that much more chance for some 
kind of coincidence. 

Riess: The number of ideas you took up, it seemed as if 

you were hounded by the intellectual dogs, or some 
thing like that. 

Stewart: Oh, I think I was, in a sense. Yes. I had a certain 
amount of compulsion I suppose. That article on 
Melville, for Instance, is one of the best things I 
ever did. I had that in my mind for about ten years. 
I kept thinking about this and that. I tried to get 
some other person to write it. I didn't want to 
write it I [laughing] They'd talk to me and say, 
"That's certainly a good idea, yes. Why don't you 
write it?" But I never did it, never got around to 
it. Finally I got that graduate course in which the 
whole idea was that I was going to make the students 
work on one particular project for half the course. 
That worked out very well, that course. It resulted 
in several publications. 

The first year, I threw this Melville idea into 
the pot, and I got something out of the students. Of 
course it was still my article all right, and I 
finally published it after all those years. 

Riess: I guess that would have been one of the great things 
that graduate students could do. 

Stewart: Well, there's a certain amount of criticism on that, 
about professors exploiting their students. But I 
think that's a lot of hooey really, in most instances. 
In science particularly. I think if a graduate 
student publishes something along with the professor, 
that's fine for him. That gives him the gratification, 
and starts him off. I know I've had reports back 
occasionally from students who were in that course. 
They're very proud of this, you know. I mentioned all 
of them in the footnote. They think this is wonderful. 

I did one article in collaboration with a student 
(Joseph E. Backus) out of that course. That was very 
Interesting and it worked out well. It makes a nice 


Stewart: bond. He's the only person I ever collaborated with 
on that kind of thing. I see him occasionally. 
He's teaching at the University of Hawaii now. A 
nice thing to have both of us together on it. 

Another student I was working on something with 
ran away with the ball, and that was fine. He 
(Hungerford) did so much work that I lost track of 
what was happening. I said, "I can't sign this. 
You've really done the work, so you sign it." There 
was a lot of my stuff in it, but he put it under his 
own name. I said, "I can't sign this without going 
over all that stuff, and I don't want to take the 
time . " 

Riess: In the notes for Ordeal by Hunger there does seem 
to be somebody working with you and doing a lot of 
reading of letters and giving you kind of synopses. 

Stewart: It might have been Paul Johnson. He's still hereabouts, 
He Just published a book, a pictorial history of 
California. It's had a pretty good run, I think. He 
worked for Sunset for many years. I see him once in 
a while. 

Riess: How did you two get together on Ordeal by Hunger? 

Stewart: He was on a student help project they had during the 

New Deal, a thing for students to make a little money. 
He was very good. He worked for me quite a little 
bit. I don't remember him on Ordeal by Hunger 
particularly, but that was the period. 

Riess: How did you get him? 

Stewart: Oh, I don't remember exactly, but if you had a topic 
they could work on, well, more or less what you were 
supposed to do was give these students a chance to 
help themselves. I suppose he came in and applied 
for a Job, and this was something he could do. Often, 
of course, you had them working on things that didn't 
amount to too much. The idea was that if they could 
make a little bit of money, why, you didn't worry 
too much if what they were turning up wasn't of much 
Importance. But he was a good man. He has had quite 
a distinguished record really, since then. 

I had a whole WPA project going there for a 
while. It's still all in the library, the stuff they 



Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 


collected.* They had about ten people working on 

On what? 

I had them collecting reviews on Western "books out 
of the Journals. It's still a potentially useful 
thing they did. A big file, of every kind of book 
that had to do with the West. They would find 
reviews on it. 


That was thirty years ago. There weren't so many 
books. They went through journals in the library, 
and collected all the reviews that had to do with 
Western books. It was fine. It's something they 
ought to be doing these days, you know, with the do- 
nothing administration we have now. Back in the New 
Deal they really made Jobs for workers. That's what 
they should be doing right now. 

I had a man running the thing, a graduate student 
of history whom I'd known. He was down and out too. 
It was one of the best Jobs he'd held in a long time. 
Then there were about ten people who were all down 
and out. They had some education. They could read 
and write, that was about all. They weren't what 
you'd call research assistants. They could do this 
kind of thing. They made some mistakes of course. 
They'd get books In that weren't really didn't 
really deal with the West, they Just thought they 
did. That doesn't do any harm. 

Then did you have to check it all, or did you have 
to pass on the whole thing? 

No, I didn't have to. This graduate student was a 
kind of director of it. He'd throw some of the stuff 
out that obviously shouldn't be there. I, at that 
time, had the idea of doing kind of a big history of 
Western literature. I gave it up after I got to 
writing novels, so I never even used this. It would 
have been very useful. I gave it to the library, 

* Filed under George Stewart, author, in The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, Berkeley. 



Stewart: and It may have been used a good many times. I 

don't know how much it's known about. It never was 
put in shape really, but it's there. 

Riess: How were the depression years for you? 

Stewart: The depression years were not particularly hard for 
us, because the prices were very much lower. We 
were Just as hard up in the twenties as we were 
during the depression! In fact I was very hard up 
always until Storm hit the Jackpot there, with the 
Book of the Month Club. That really put me over the 
hump financially. 

Riess: Was your wife working? 

Stewart: She worked a little. Not very much. She gradually 
got her training, and she went into social work, you 
know.. But when the children were small she couldn't 
do much. In her middle thirties she started taking 
graduate work in social welfare. It was pretty slow. 
She couldn't get much of it in at a time. Eventually 
she got her master's in social work, and she worked 
for a good many years. 

Riess: Where did you first live when you came here from 
Michigan and you were married? 

Stewart: We lived in a tiny place up on Canyon Road, right up 
above the stadium. We lived there for only a year, 
though, because we were going to have a baby and we 
didn't have much room there. So we moved into a 
little apartment in an old building on La Loma. We 
were there for a year, and we moved to another place 
down on Hilgard for a year. Then, Mrs. Stewart's 
mother had an idea she was a widow then she wanted 
to come live in Berkeley and get a house that had 
an apartment underneath where she could live. So 
she bought a house on Hill Court and we lived there 
for three years. 




Stewart: In those years we moved a lot. We came back 
from Europe and went up to the top of Virginia 
Street and lived In two different houses up there 
about a year apiece. We always had some good reason 
for moving. By that time the children were getting 
to be four and six. This was the very depths of the 
depression, and we bought a house out on San Luis 
Road in 193^ for $3^00. It was a terrible place. 
We borrowed all the money we could get together, 
mortgaged the house, and got a veteran's loan. I 
think we raised about $4000 more and remodeled the 
house, and made quite a nice Job of it. 

We lived there for sixteen years. That was 
really a very lucky house. The children grew up 
there and I became a writer and full professor and 
everything else. Then we sold that house, and built 
the house up on Cordon! ces Road where we lived until 
we came over here. We lived nineteen years in that 
house. That's our history of houses. That house 
on San Luis always pleases me, because I can still 
go out there and see the pine trees I planted, which 
are up over the top of the house. And there is lots 
of stuff there that I still can see I did. 

In a way the most discouraging years were the 
first two years we were on San Luis Road, because 
that was the depression and that was the time of 
the Montgomery department, and not getting anywhere 
in the department, and all that. But from 19 36, with 
Ordeal by Hunger and my promotion, things moved. 

Riess: In the beginning, when you had children and the 

children were young, did you have a sort of "take it 
or leave it" feeling? or was everything really tied 
up with this University for you? 

Stewart: No, I wasn't committed to this University particularly, 
but of course it was the only Job I had. [laughing] 
So I was tied up in that way. I don't know. I was 
in a fairly confused state during those years when 
my children were little, but I think it's a very 
trying time in many ways. It's a completely new 
experience. It's a rather difficult thing. You 
probably know all about that I And of course at that 
stage it looks like forever, but actually it's a 
very short period, if you have a moderate number of 
children. They grow up so fast that somehow it isn't 


Stewart: your whole life after all, but it seems that way at 
the time. In the old days, if you had ten children, 
it was your whole life then! 

Riess: For you, how do you measure the success of your 
books, or a book? 

Stewart: You measure it by the quality and the number of your 
readers I think, more than anything else. That of 
course is reflected in the sales also, at least the 
quantity is. Not by the reviews as much as a lot of 
people would think. I got cynical about reviews. 
Most of them are hurriedly done, and rather stupid 
things. I don't really pay much attention to reviews 
anymore. I think what I appreciate most is a really 
good appreciation and even criticism of the book by 
somebody for whom I have considerable respect. 

Riess: Not a reviewer? 

Stewart: Well, he might be a reviewer, yes. There are good 

reviewers too. Of course anybody's likely to review 
a book. Out of a lot of reviews you'll get some 
very good ones and some that you are very pleased 
with. There were a tremendous number of reviews of 
the American Place Names book. They must have Just 
showered review copies out everywhere. Some of them 
are really very fine, very appreciative. 

Riess: Do you have any control over who the review copies 
go to? 

Stewart: Almost none. I don't try to do that. Of course 

sometimes the publisher will ask you for some advice, 
but not generally. I can't remember more than one 
or two times when I ever really tried to get a 
reviewer spotted for a book. 

I think the quality of reviewing has deteriorated 
in my time as a writer. Maybe my point of view has 
changed, but I think the quality of reviewing, both 


Stewart : 



Stewart : 

quantitatively and qualitatively, has declined. 
There are not as many reviews ordinarily. 

And the book publishing companies have got 
awfully big, you know. There's very little personal 
touch, I should judge. Of course I can't go entirely 
by my own experience. 

There's almost no good editing done. There were 
the famous old editors, like Maxwell Perkins, and 
like well, Saxe Commins, whom I worked with some, 
though he never did so much for me. But he was a 
very fine editor, and he had a sense of warm, 
personal contact which means a good deal. 

Looking at your fan mail in Bancroft Library, I had 
the feeling that your books really spoke to your 
readers. Did those letters peter out as the years 
went by? 

Certainly for me, but that wouldn't mean anything, 
as I haven't been writing as popular books. So 
I wouldn't say that that means much generally. I 
don't know how other authors would feel about that, 
whether the readers write very much to them. I think 
it's an important link, really. 

I remember I talked with a psychologist, a UCLA 
man, once, who was Interested in that more or less. 
He called it feedback. He said it was a very 
important source of feedback to a writer, because 
a writer is likely to get the feeling that he's 
writing in a vacuum, and these things helped me 

Or that he is writing for reviewers. 

Or that he is Just writing for money. At least that 
would be one kind of feedback. Money is a kind of 
feedback, [laughing] I mean, you know that something 
is happening anyway if you have a big sale. But 
it's also important to have the other thing. 

The phenomenon of fan mail is something that I 
think has never been studied very much. Do you know 
anything on that, for instance? 


No. I Just read yours. 
into these letters. 

People put so much feeling 

Stewart: Tremendous at times. Yes. I think the phenomenon 
of fan mail ought to be studied, because I think 
it's an important phase of literary history. I'm 
not speaking Just of what you get from writing 
books. What kind of books, for instance, inspire 
fan mail? Because obviously a controversial book 
will bring out more of it than anything else. I've 
got the most letters of any book on Man, largely 
because it irritated a lot of religious people, and 
they wrote letters. 

A book which is controversial will bring out 
more, and I think also it's probably proportional to 
the number of copies circulated. The more circulated, 
why, the more letters you get back I suppose. Did 
you get that impression in particular books that you 

Riess: Well, I've only got up really through the fan mail 

on Storm. I think often It wasn't so much a response 
to a particular book, but it was the kind of person 
who wrote a letter, and for them it was really a very 
meaningful experience, period. 

Stewart: Yes, I think it means a good deal, because the 

ordinary person doesn't break down to write a letter 
very easily. For every one that writes a letter 
there must be a dozen who say, "Well, I think I'll 
write a letter," but who don't get around to it. 

Riess: Maybe the average person who writes a letter wants 
to communicate in a give-and-take way. Yet, when 
you write to an author you don't expect that. So 
it's a special kind of letter. 

Stewart: I think that most people have the hope that they'll 
hear from the author. They usually give their 
return address, I notice. I've acknowledged 
practically all of my letters. I don't write very 
much, but I have acknowledged them. Every now and 
then I've heard back in some other way how pleased 
the person was. So I think it's a nice thing to do. 
If you had too many of them you couldn't do it. 
Storm had a lot, and I had a girl work for me as 
secretary then. I acknowledged a lot of them Just 
through her. Occasionally there's one I don't like, 
and I won't answer it. [laughter] You know people 
try to show off. They aren't really interested in 


Stewart: the book so much; they're Just interested In them 
selves. Those I sometimes don't answer. 

Earth Abides was the book that inspired almost 
fierce loyalty. I think when you hit those letters 
you'll see the difference. I never got very many 
adverse letters, but I think that's natural because 
if people don't like a book they're not apt to write 
a letter about it. They'll probably be bored by it, 
and the last thing they'll want to do is write a 
letter. So, I don't think the fact that nearly all 
the letters are complimentary means too much. Unless, 
as I say, you've got a controversial subject, and so 
they get mad about something. 

Riess: It does Indicate that they were somehow the old days 
of the book, when a book wasn't Just picked up and 
put down between television programs. 

Stewart: It meant more to people on the whole, I think, yes. 
I haven't got very many letters, not nearly as many 
as I expected on this Place Names book, because that's 
the kind of book that rather tends to inspire letters. 
They send in for more information, and that kind of 
thing. But I didn't get as many out of that as I 

Riess: I noticed a lot of that from Names on the Land. 
Stewart: Yes. That was pretty heavy. 

Riess: Did you put in a request at the end of that book that 
if people knew anything 

Stewart: I did in one of the later printings. I don't think 
I did in the first printing. That's a dangerous 
thing to do. You can't tell what you're going to 
get. You more or less obligate yourself to answer, 
if you do that. 

Riess: I was wondering how well protected against reactions, 
adverse or otherwise, you were after a book hit the 
bookstores. Did you tend to immerse yourself in the 
next book, or did you wait around for the public 

Stewart: By the time a book came out I was usually well along 
in the next one. There's a considerable time lag in 


Stewart: there. Unless you want to sit around for about a year, 
there's no use waiting till the book comes out. Some 
people do, of course. People have all sorts of 
different habits, but I was always hot on the trail 
of the next book. I'd be well along. I rather lost 
interest in the book by the time it was published, 
half the time. 

Rless: I wondered whether you would lose interest; not only 
that, but whether it was really somehow part of your 
past already, so that you weren't even involved 

Stewart: Well, I wouldn't put It as strong as that. You're 

interested In the book still, but you're moving ahead 
to the next book. At least I always was. That could 
be checked out very easily by well, by the data 
(diary of events) you have there, for instance, you 
could tell when the book was published, and how far 
along I was in the next book by that time. 

When I finished East of the Giants, when I was 
down In Mexico that spring, I didn't have much else 
to do down there, I was living a very quiet, pleasant 
life. So I started Doctor's Oral right away. I had 
about a third of it written before I left Mexico that 
spring. But that was a very short book. 

Rless: And then even down there you had the idea for Storm 
I gather. 

Stewart: Yes, I did, although I was still holding it as 

something for the not too immediate future. Then I 
finished Doctor's Oral. Then I was playing around 
with an idea of another book on the West, and a novel. 
I got to thinking more about Storm. I was going to 
write this Western book first and then write Storm. 
and the Western book didn't seem too interesting to 
me, so I thought why not Just drop it completely 
and go ahead with this idea on Storm. So that's the 
way I did that. I had a slight gap in there, but not 

Hi ess: At this point were you in contact with Holt, or 
whoever your publishers were, so that they were 
pushing for work from you? 

Stewart: Well, you see, Holt had a difficult time Just about 
then. They, I think, got into financial trouble and 

Stewart : 

Stewart: had administrative troubles. Anyway, that f s when I 
shifted to Random House. Holt did get a reorganiza 
tion and they tried very hard to get me to give them 
Doctor's Oral but I had agents then, and they didn't 
want to deal with Holt because Holt was in too 
uncertain a position. So I went over to Random House. 

How did you get hooked up with your agent? 

I think it was through Joe Jackson, Joseph Henry 
Jackson. He was a very close friend of John 
Steinbeck's. These people were John Steinbeck's 
agents. I knew John too. It was through that general 
connection that I tied up with Mclntosh and Otis. 

Riess: And with Annie Laurie Williams also? 

Stewart: She was tied up with them, yes. She split off a long 
time ago. They had their offices in the same building. 

I had a letter from her just this morning, or 
rather from her sister, because she's getting old. 
She's finally giving up her office. It's a little 
embarrassing to me. I won't probably have much more 
work of that kind, but she kept hanging on, you know. 
She would do her work from her room in the hotel, that 
sort of thing. That's not good, when a person gets 
too old. 

Riess: You mean it's better for her to Just sever connections 

Stewart: I think when people get that old they should quit, 

retire, and make some arrangement for their writers. 
Wouldn't you think so? I suppose some people, like 
her, Just never feel they're ready to retire. 

Riess: Maybe she has some other person in the office who 
in fact actually does the things? 

Stewart: Well, that's been the way it is, but now she's 

giving up the office entirely. As I say, she didn't 
even write me this letter this morning. Actually, 
they sold an option to Earth Abides and they sent me 
a check for that. It didn't amount to much, but it 
will be something if they sell it. But I've had 
difficulty dealing with her, because she Just wasn't 
at the point where she was answering letters very 

Riess: She got in her share in the early days. 

Stewart: She was a very nice person, a crazy kind of person, 
but very warm-hearted. And very efficient in her 
day, too. Everybody knew her. She was a figure in 
show business in New York. 

Riess: Was it with any kind of reluctance that you went big 
time with the agents and everything? 

Stewart: I don't think you could say I was very big time. I 
thought it was a very good idea at the time. I was 
very glad to do it. It does make you feel a little 
more important to have an agent. I got sick of it 
after a while. I gave up the agent after about eight 

Riess: I can see why you might have needed one to guide you 
through the intricacies of the rights to Storm and 

Stewart: Well, you need an agent for that. That's pretty 

technical work. I wouldn't want to get involved with 
motion-picture contracts without an agent. In fact 
you need one for foreign rights. A. D. Peters in 
London handles those. And I've had Annie Laurie to 
handle all the subsidiary rights. The actual book 
rights I handle myself, ever since Fire was the 
first book I took back, so they handled about four 
or five books actually, two of which I have taken 
back. I told them I didn't see any point in their 
handling these any more. Anything you'd sell would 
be very small. 

There ought to be a termination contract on agents, 
Actually most agents work without any contract at all, 
so I suppose you can take the thing away from them. 
You can break your relationship any time you want. 

Riess: That's harder than breaking a contract, isn't it? 

Stewart: Well, not necessarily. As far as the book is con 
cerned, they do have a contract on that. It's very 
irritating. You see, they've been drawing royalties 
on Storm now for 25 years without really doing 
anything at all. 




Stewart: Publishers' contracts have a termination clause. 

If they don't keep the book In print, you can terminate 
the contract. Of course, they won't keep a book In 
print unless It's paying pretty well, so you can 
usually exercise those clauses if you want to. 

Let me tell you a little more about the agent 
while I'm at it, that is, my experience of what an 
agent can do, and what they can't do. It's never 
been particularly gratifying to me. They arranged 
my contract with Random House to begin with, and I 
kept with Random House for more than fifteen years. 
But an agent is a third party, who is a nuisance In 
some ways, at least it was in those days. I think it 
still is, from what I hear. Instead of negotiating 
directly with the publisher you do to some extent 
yet at the same time the agent is in on it and it 
gets to be a nuisance. It's Just another party. And 
of course they take their ten percent which they don't 
seem to earn very much, to me. And you have to keep 
accounts on them too. The accounting I thought they 
were very bad at, generally. I couldn't get my agents' 
accounts to agree with my publisher's accounts. That 
used to irritate me no end. I thought they ought at 
least to be able to keep accounts. 

Of course, I didn't want agents stirring up 
business for me. I'd rather supply my own business. 

Hiess: You mean stirring up requests for you to write a book 
on a subject? 

Stewart: That, or magazine articles. 

Riess: That's the role I think of with them, the hard sell. 
Working up some business. 

Stewart: Well, maybe they didn't do that with me because they 
didn't think it was suitable for me, and I wouldn't 
do it well, I know. Maybe with other writers they 
would do better. But anyway, I just couldn't see what 
they were accomplishing. In some ways I'm sorry now, 
because as I'm getting older, it looks as if it might 
be a good idea to have somebody taking care of all the 
details, but my experience was that they didn't take 
care of them. I couldn't see why I was having an 
agent, half the time. 

Riess: It was Just one more person for you to look out for, 

Stewart : Yes . 

Riess: There was a time in the correspondence from Annie 

Laurie to you where I really felt "agent" in the old 
sense of the word, when she described the battle that 
she and Bennett Cerf had had selling Storm to 
Paramount . 

Stewart: Yes. [laughing] I remember that letter. 

You recall I spoke about bad luck in my 
professional life? Storm was a good example. It 
was published Just before Pearl Harbor. We had some 
thing like seven motion picture companies interested 
in it, about all there are, and then, of course, when 
Pearl Harbor came, they all dropped it immediately. 
Eventually Paramount came back and picked it up. Of 
course they took it very cheaply. You probably saw 
the figures there. $20,000. Yes. It would have gone 
for a lot more than that with some bidding. 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 


And then was it made as a movie? 

It was made as a Walt Disney verson, which is not too 
bad. Paramount sold it at some time to Disney 
apparently. You see, you lose all your rights when 
you make a moving picture sale like that. You're 
completely out as far as the motion picture industry 
is concerned. I never paid much attention to what 
was happening to it. 

Oh, I did for a while. They had a lot of activity 
for a while, but they didn't get anywhere on it. 

What's the Authors' Guild? What did it do for you? 

Well, it never did anything for me. I finally quit 
it. It never really got to be very strong. I got 
tired of it. 

What kind of powers does it have? 

It doesn't have any powers at all. It's done a little 
bit of work on getting standard contracts, things of 
that sort. 

One file you have a somewhat threatening note to 
somebody that you would "let the Authors' Guild know 
about it, if they did such and such..." 


Stewart: Yes. I did that, but it obviously didn't do anything, 
That's one reason I didn't like it. 

Bless: Was instructing the reader a value that you placed 
high in your writing? 

Stewart: I don't think so high in my novels, no. Of course In 
a nonfiction book no, I didn't place that very high. 
Oh, I suppose it's inevitable, having been so much a 
teacher in my time, that I can't get over the idea of 
telling people, Instructing people. I suppose that's 
natural. But on the whole I didn't look upon those 
novels as being instructional. 

Riess: Another assumption I made from my reading of your 

books is that you think it's important for people to 
be in touch with the ancient and uncivilized in our 

Stewart: Do I think that? I guess I do, yes. Well, I think 
we would have to go into my psyche a lot deeper than 
we can right now, to find out about that! [laughter] 
I don't know why. I think essentially what appeals 
to me is simplicity. I often oversimplify, I think. 
I've been accused of that. It's probably true. I 
think it ties in with that. The simple, the direct. 

On the other side, I have a great sense of what I 
sometimes call microcosm, that is, of trying to express 
the whole thing in a small way. My books are very 
carefully plotted, you notice. They're fairly much 
microcosms in themselves. You start with something, 
and build up to something, and go to the end. That 
was in Storm and Earth Abides, a lot of them. Of 
course Earth Abides is a microcosm in two or three 
senses. So is Years of the City. 

I think the idea of simplicity is the way I would 
put it. That is, all my books I think have this 
that's what you were saying, really, the Interest in 

Stewart: the primitive in a certain sense. Take even Joe 

Grantland in Doctor's Oral. His virtues are really 
all in his simplicity. Did you get a chance to read 
that? Well, you can see how it is with him there. 
He's not brilliant but a very direct and strong person 
in his way. 

Riess: My strongest memory of Doctor's Oral is your statements 
in the beginning and the end. 

Stewart: Well, as you know I've always tried to keep a certain 
unrealistic touch in my books also. Those passages 
I put in I've done in so many of my books. Some kind 
of partly lyrical passages. They're very hard to know 
how to handle exactly, but I think on the whole they've 
been quite successful in most of those books. I tried 
that in Doctor's Oral at the beginning and at the end. 

Riess: I would have guessed that that was where you said what 
you wanted to say, that that was the point. 

Stewart: In a sense I suppose so. I think the beginning and 
end of Doctor's Oral are two of the best things I 
ever wrote. That book is forgotten about, but I like 
both those parts very much. 

Riess: I would like to ask the obvious about Doctor's Oral. 
Who were the people in it, and how was it received 
by the department here? And what were your feelings 
when you were writing it, about the department? 

Stewart: Well, I could talk a lot about that. I tried very 
hard not to make any of the characters in the book 
seem like the characters around Berkeley, and on 
the whole I think I succeeded pretty well on that. 
Have you heard any gossip about that? 

Riess: I Just read in one letter that somebody thought 
Martlness sounded like Ben Lehman. 

Stewart: Yes. That was almost inevitable. There may have 

been some resemblance the way Ben was in those days 
much more than the way he was later. I think the 
man changed a great deal in his development. Some 
times of course those so-called identifications of 
characters were based on some particular mannerism, 
a very small matter. I often had the idea that 
these characters were like certain people I knew, 
often not at Berkeley. But I tried to disguise them, 




Stewart: so that I didn't have too much trouble on that. I 

had no trouble that I know of at all in the department. 
I don't know whether there was any real objection to 
it or not. There may have been some I never heard of. 
The older man there, Angle, of course many people 
thought to be a lot like Jack Tatlook. He was to 
some extent. The woman I didn't really have anybody 
in mind particularly. She was rather a type. We had 
no women in the department at that time, so I couldn't 
be accused of making use of that. 

J. MacNair Brice had some mannerisms like 
Merritt Hughes, who Just died the other day. He was 
in the department, or had been in the department he'd 
gone to Wisconsin by that time. His way of talking 
he had a kind of machine-gun talk, talk in a rush, 
you know, little burst and spurt si that was something 
like Merritt. Of course that's a very small thing. 

Both for Joe and Julia I had certain people in 
the background of my mind. But not too much. I used 
myself in that one fellow there. That's the only 
time I think I no, I used myself other times too. 
You almost have to use yourself. 

Riess: Who were you? 

Stewart: The professor of history, a minor character, really. 
I more or less absorbed his point of view and I was 
writing from his point of view. I can't think of 
his name, but he was the one who wouldn't vote in the 
end. But he didn't look like me. He looked like a 
picture I saw in a book review. I have no idea who 
he looked like, but he didn't look like me at all. 

The people in that book I think were pretty 
sharply characterized, for a small book. The whole 
scene was pretty well organized. I had had very 
little experience with giving doctor's orals at that 
time, actually. They weren't so common in those 
days. There weren't so many people, and I was a 
younger man In the department. So it was more based 
on my own than anything else; there were several 
incidents right out of my own doctor's oral, and 
some other instances that people had told me. All 
that business about "The Blessed Damozel," for instance, 
was told ne as something that happened to a Yale Ph.D. 
That was an incredible thing! This man I think he 
said it happened to him, and in pretty much the way 

Stewart: I told. it. It was not the same question but it was 
something equally unimportant. It was a comparable 
way of going at it and trying to break a man down. 

The first question in German happened on my 
Ph.D. examination. It was a really friendly question, 
Just as it was in Angle's case there, because Professor 
Krapp at Columbia asked me to explain the "Vierhebungs 
theorie." He knew that I knew it! [laughing] So I 
explained it. I was almost knocked over when he said 
it in German though. I knew what it meant all right, 
because I had done some of the reading in German. 

Riess: You had that book plotted with maps, I saw, maps of 
Julia's room, drawings of the cafe. 

Stewart: Yes, I always enjoyed doing that, having a bigger 

frame of reference than you actually use. I think we 
were talking about that last time, how a lot of what 
I did for the maps in Fire didn't get into the book, 
because I made the map as something in itself. 

Riess: At what stage in your writing does the map develop? 

Stewart: Well, it differs in different kinds of things. In 

Doctor's Oral the maps weren't very important really, 
they were Just fun. 

Riess: Were they included? 

Stewart: No. On the other hand, with Storm, the various maps 
were tremendously important. In a sense when I got 
that series of maps done, I had written the book. 
They were very difficult, and meant a lot of redrawing, 
and much work plotting the whole thing over all those 
days, you see. Getting one thing going into another. 

I always insisted upon having all the loose ends 
tucked in properly. Similarly in Fire. You'd be 
surprised at how difficult that is, because this fire 
depended upon the terrain very largely, you see, the 
terrain, and the tree growth, and so forth. You had 
to plot that all out. You would get along in your 
plotting, and you'd think of some other incident you 
wanted to put in, then you would go back and change 
everything, all the way back, you know! After a 
while, you'd Just have to freeze it. Keep everything 
going there. 


Stewart: And of course as you're writing a novel sometimes 
certain events don't develop very much and you don't 
make much out of them. That was true in Fire. There 
were certain things that I thought would be very big 
and they didn't turn out very big. 

But really, in Storm and Fire, and Years of the 
City., mostly Storm and Fire, the maps were very 
important. Earth Abides . I didn't have any maps at 
all, because I used the scene there in Berkeley. I 
had it all in my head. 

Rless: As soon as you do the map, it's as if it was a factual 
book and a reader would respond within that context, 
and even note fallacies. 

Stewart: Well, that of course was particularly true of Storm 

and Fire. Earth Abides, a little bit. Oh yes, I got 
letters, as you probably saw in there, from engineers 
and all that sort of thing. That business about the 
spark on the owl's wing. That was something that 
bothered people quite a bit! But I never got too 
much worried about that, because I figured electricity's 
a pretty chancy thing. That was one thing. Oh, there 
were a few others. 

It was translated into Swedish. That was one of 
the first languages it was translated into. The Swedes 
made a very elaborate translation, with a really top- 
rank meteorologist as consultant. Did you see any of 
that? A man named Bergeron, who is still living, by 
the way. I got to know him, and he's way past ninety 
now. Still going strong, one of those indestructible 
Swedes. They had him in as consultant, and they 
practically ruined the book. They had a lot of 
appendices and notes, you know, [laughter] I don't 
think anybody read it except somebody who was really 
going after instruction in meteorology. 

Actually, Bergeron thought I had one thing wrong, 
and he changed the map. I didn't know anything about 
the translation, though, until after it was finished. 
They didn't consult with me. Of course it was in 
Swedish, so I couldn't read it. 

The great problem they had was with the exclamation 
the man used, the "kee-riced! " The translator couldn't 
find this in any known English dictionary, [laughter] 
They consulted the greatest philologist in the 

Stewart: university they could find around there. Finally 
somebody got it, you know. Instead of calling up 
the embassy and getting some second secretary, who 
would have known immediately what I was trying to say. 
[laughter] The Swedes are great people, but I think 
sometimes they lack a little humor. 

Riess: Getting back to a few general questions, would you 
say here something about education today, and what 
you might choose to do now. 

Stewart: Well, I don't agree with the modern attitudes of young 
people that there's mostly no relevancy in the past. 
I certainly don't agree with that. I go along with 
President Truman. I think you can learn something 
from the past. We need that very much. The great 
trouble now is that there hasn't been enough synthesis 
of all these different knowledges. The extent of 
knowledge has increased so much that it's very hard 
to get any kind of general view. I think that's the 
problem for the future, sometime, to synthesize these 
things, so you're able to get some kind of view of 

Rless: New kinds of curriculum? Interdepartmental things? 

Stewart: Well, I think so, yes. I hate that word "inter 
departmental" it never gets anywhere. More synthesis, 
yes. Of course there are courses like that. I suppose 
some of them are very good ones. I can't go into 
detail too much. I think education has two sides, one 
being the professional side, interpreting "profession" 
in the wide sense; the other is the side that develops 
the individual and makes a good citizen out of him so 
to speak. 

Riess: Do you think in education there should be time out 

for kinds of living, and. then coming back to education? 
Would you have liked to have done that sort of thing? 

Stewart: Not particularly, no. At least I don't think I would 
have. That was rather outside the scope of our 


Stewart: Imagination at that time. We Just weren't thinking 
In those terms. Of course there were people that 
did It. As I think I said last time, I looked upon 
the Ph.D. rather the other way around, as something 
that I wanted to do and get over with so that I 
could work on my own more completely. I would 
probably not have gone with that Idea of doing some 
other kind of work, say going out and teaching for 
a year for example. 

Rless: So you don't have a lot of "If I were to do It all 
over again I would do It another way" feelings? 

Stewart: One often thinks of that sort of thing. I'm not at 
all sure I did it the right way. But how are you 
going to know? I wouldn't lay down any particular 
thing that I would have been. I Just think there are 
so many possibilities. I don't think I was ever 
outstanding as a classroom teacher. It's so hard to 
tell about those things. 

Rless: Your quality of welcoming a real challenge in life, 
is this part of what's called the Puritan ethic? 

Stewart: Well, if I knew what the Puritan ethic was, or Just 
what you meant by that, I could say better. I think 
the Puritans get blamed for a lot. Usually It's the 
Protestant ethic, I think isn't that what they talk 
about now? It isn't quite the same. But I never 
could say about that, because it's the Jewish ethic 
too, and the Chinese, and lots of people I think 
you'll find have pretty much the same Idea. In fact 
I don't think the Catholics are lacking it either! 
You've got all sorts of Catholics. That gives the 
general impression that Catholics are all sort of 
southern Italians who are never bothered about anything, 
Not so. There are all kinds of Catholics. Lots of 
English Catholics probably aren't very different 
they're probably as much part of the Protestant ethic 
as anybody else for that matter. 

Hiess: Do you have the belief that struggle develops a 

Stewart: Well, I suppose I have it, very strongly. It's my 
natural way of thinking. As I say, I've always 
rather objected to the terminology there, because 1 
don't think the Protestants have carried it out any 
more strongly than some other groups. 


Rless: One of the results seems to be that people measure 
life in terms of the effort, the struggle, and when 
the struggle ends, they feel adrift. At retirement, 
for instance. 

Stewart: They really do, a lot of them. We haven't got a good 
solution to that question in this country. It's very 
bad right now. That's something that I can see pretty 
clearly. But I don't know that it rests altogether on 
that one attitude, because you do have both the 
physical and the mental slowlng-down, which has to be 
reckoned with. These people could not do their 
regular work in many instances. 

I know the last two or three years that I taught, 
I felt the mere physical strain of teaching more than 
I had before. I don't think I could do it now. The 
physical strain of giving a lecture course is much 
more than most people realize. Much more than any 
person realizes who hasn't done It. I think it's a 
question of domination. You have to hold this group 
some way, and it's very tiring. For that reason I 
think 6? is a very good retirement age for the 
university. The question of whether you can retire 
gradually and ease out, I think that's very doubtful 
too, whether that's a good thing. It's tied up with 
the actual weakening of the individual. People are 
not as good as they were, very often. Some people 
are, of course. But not all. 

Riess: I'm suggesting that some people don't let themselves 
stop struggling. 

Stewart: I think that's a fairly deep individual trait. Some 

people Just can't stand Inactivity. I'm not very good 
at it myself. You can get activity in various ways. 
I know I have tried to adapt myself to the situation. 
When I got to be sixty, I said I wasn't going to 
hurry any more. I kept that pretty well. I didn't 
do much hurrying. I kept out of situations where I 
had to hurry, because I don't like to hurry. I 
wouldn't cross the street until I could cross the 
street without rushing too hard. I do that still. 
Of course now it's more or less necessitated. I 
started it really before I needed to very much. I 
certainly like to keep on being active as much as 
I can. 


INTERVIEW III, Conversation about priorities and 
motivation; the plays; abandoned projects; Fire . 
Earth Abides; teaching writing; more abandoned 
projects. TReoorded July 16, 1971) 

Rless: Once you told an interviewer at first I thought maybe 
it was Just a Joke that you decided to write a novel 
on October 10, 1936 at 11 a.m. on the other side of 
Petaluma. Really? 

Stewart: Well, it Just happened that I had been working on a 
big Job. I had finished Ordeal by Hunger and had 
tasted the pleasures of doing that sort of book, 
which had a popular audience. I was getting a little 
fed up on the other Job I was doing, which was going 
to be a long Job. I had to go up to Santa Rosa, 
actually, to give a lecture, and on that particular 
day, I decided I was going to write a novel. My wife 
was with me in the car there, nobody else, and she 
thought it was a good Idea. And so that's it, I guess. 
It is rather amusing. It's nice to have an exact 
answer to a question, [laughter] I didn't quite split 
any seconds on it, you see. I got a round number, 
11 a.m. 

Rless: At that time, was there anything you wanted particularly 
to say in a novel or book, or was it Just the idea of 
doing that kind of writing? 

Stewart: I think it was more the idea of doing Just that kind 
of writing. Have I shown you this book, by the way? 
This is not like a diary, but a kind of book in which 
I write down things that happened which 'I think might 
be useful to know when they happened. I'm sure I've 
got that in there. [Looking in book.] Yes, it is 
there! So that's another proof anyway. Although I 
didn't write that down at the time, I don't think. I 

57 a 

Sample pages from George Stewart's datebook 


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570- 3 L - 




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Stewart : 



made that book up later, 
if you want to. 

You can look at that book 

I think It would be interesting to know what you 
thought should go in this non-diary book. 

Well, the first years there was hardly anything, 
because I was only putting in exact dates. I could 
write in a lot of things more or less, you see, but... 
And then, it's Just a lot of notes. It's a very 
useful book to have, by the way. It's not like a 
diary, but it lets you check up very rapidly on 
certain things not all of them very important. There's 
a lot more in there about trips and that kind of thing 
than really should be, because that gives you a definite 
time you can write down. 

Riess: But that's good. In interviewing, it seems like a 
lot of time is spent trying to figure out people's 
comings and goings. 

Stewart: Well, of course you tend to remember things, you say, 
"Is that before I went to Europe or after oh, it was 
before." So that gives you it's not that the trip 
to Europe was necessarily important, but it's a kind 
of punctuation mark. The stamps in the back here, 
that's something I started doing in 1957* Every time I 
got a letter from a different country, I put that down 
there. Those are all the different countries. Isn't 
it amazing! 

You wouldn't think that Just in the course of 
correspondence you know, sometimes advertisements 
and post-cards people send back from various countries 
all those countries! It's very hard to get another 
one, because they're Just way out in the sticks now. 
I even got all the little countries in Europe, because 
I had a friend who made a trip there. I'd been to 
Andorra. That immediately Inspired his going- to 
Lichtenstein and San Marino and all the other little 
places. He sent post -cards so I got all those. I 
Just mention that, because you might wonder what those 
stamps are doing in there. Do you want to take that book 
along? Because I won't need it of course. I'll be 
away. You'll take good care of it, I'm sure. 

Riess: And it is something to take care of I 

Stewart: Well, yes. It would be hard to replace. 


Riess: There ' s a question. What would you take if you had 
to abandon this place quickly, at this point, in the 
event of a fire? 

Stewart: Well, if I had a current manuscript, that had no 

duplicate, I think I'd take that. I don't know. It's 
pretty hard to say. Of course I've got all of my 
book contracts here, and they'd be quite a natural 
thing, quite a useful thing to take. And a few books 
of that sort. I've got one book that has all my 
financial statements in it. It's useful for tax 

Riess: Oh, you wouldn't take advantage of that opportunity 
to leave that kind of thing behind? 

Stewart: Well, I don't think that these are all second thoughts 
anyway. We cleaned out so much stuff when we moved, 
you see, that I don't have the problem that most people 
would have. I've got my personal files still (I haven't 
given them to Bancroft), which are really more personal, 
they weren't about the books, that sort of thing. 
Those I'd hate to lose, but the trouble is, that all 
amounts to so much that I couldn't take all of that. 
I'd have to grab the first thing that came along. 

Is that a good question generally? 
Riess: It seems like a good question. 

Stewart: That's like the question, if you were going to be 
some animal, what animal would you want to be? 

Riess: Yes. What animal would you want to be? 

Stewart: A seal. 

Riess: That's very appealing. 

Stewart: Well, it's such a nice happy animal. 

Riess: How about an otter? 

Stewart: I think otters are very fine. I don't know so much 

about otters. I read that one book about otters, but 
I've never seen a wild otter. But I think they're very 
nice. Of course dolphins are wonderful things, you 
know. That's not a bad question though, for a parlor 
game. People usually react to it, and you get very 



Stewart: different reactions. 

Riess: When you decided to write a novel, did you have a 

sense of being released from the other thing you had 
had in mind? 

Stewart: Yes, I enjoyed it very much. I had a very good time 
writing it, and it all went very well, I didn't make 
any too bad mistakes. 

Riess: Would you agree to the idea that there was a book 
inside of you waiting to be written? 

Stewart: Well, I suppose obviously there was. 

Riess: I mean, the idea that there was something to be gotten 
out, in the writing of the book. 

Stewart: No, I don't think so so much. You mean some release 
for myself, that kind of thing? I suppose there was 
to some extent, yes. I don't think that was a very 
specific object. 

Riess: What was the other thing that you were working on 
that you abandoned? 

Stewart: That was a sort of general history of western Amerian 
literature. A very large comprehensive study. 

Riess: I remember reading at one point that you had saved 
the big Names book for "late in life, for old age 
and garrulousness," and I thought maybe the history 
of American literature 

Stewart: Well, it's really working out, isn't it! 

Riess: Maybe the comprehensive history of western American 
literature might have been saved too. 

Stewart: No, no, I wouldn't attempt that now. What I don't 
like to do now is all the legwork of research. I 
find that difficult, partly for physical reasons. 
It's just too tiring. And partly for other reasons 
too, I suppose. In a detailed subject, I can do a 
lot of work. I've done a tremendous amount of work 
on this Names book too. I can't very well say that 
I haven't done a lot of work there too. I don't' 
know why. I think it's because I happen to be 








Stewart : 

Interested In that thing at the moment, so I can do 

I find motivation gets to be a more difficult 
problem as you get older. I don't know whether most 
people notice that or not, but that's part of my 
thing, I notice. You're not working for a promotion, 
you're not working for money particularly. You don't 
really need that money. One thing and another of 
that sort. I think motivation gets to be very 
Important. I have to be very careful to pick a 
subject that I'm really sure I want to do. I don't 
think I could possibly do a book for a publisher. 

Of course, I never have done that, except In 
one case, which was my subject to start with, and 
that was the California Trail. But I would find It 
more difficult now, anyway. 

Was there any writing that you ever did in order to 
pay a bill? 

Not specifically, no. Of course I've never had any 
objection to making money. In the thirties, people 
around the University were awfully hard up. Terribly 
hard up some of the time. So any little bit of money 
that I got in was extremely welcome. 

But maybe short stories or something like that, that 
you wrote to pay the tax bill? 

Oh, I have written some short things, not exactly to 
make money, but Just as I wrote novels. I was never 
very successful in short stories though. I never 
had the knack, some way or another. So I never went 
very far with them. 

I looked at your plays, 
happened with them. 

I would like to know what 

Well, I never had any luck in that either, really, 
but that is understandable because making a break In 
writing plays is a very, very difficult business, 
the amount of money it takes to put on a play. 
Publishing a novel is a very small venture, but a 
play is more difficult. I wrote four plays. 

I like writing plays very much. They came very 
nicely to me. I don't think they're bad plays, either, 


Stewart: but as I say, again, I never had the knaok with them. 

Riess: Well, it sounds like that was a time when really an 
agent oould have worked selling them. 

Stewart: I had an agent for those. 

Riess: But people haven't seen them, I guess. 

Stewart: Well, they have. One of them was put on at the 

University, and our section club, the drama section 
there, has done three of them. And so they have been 
put on, that much. 

Funny, I generally write comedies in plays. My 
books are not particularly comedies, but some way or 
other, whenever I try to write a drama, It always 
came out as a comedy, one way or another, maybe a 
tragicomedy, but that's the way I saw things. I like 
the sense of writing for the theater. I wish that I'd 
been able to do it a little bit more, or that I'd 
had more incentive to do it. 

There's a sense of everything being spatially 
related, and I have a pretty strong spatial mind. 
Well, It's a temporal mind too, maybe. But I could 
always keep these people where they were, what they 
were doing, how you got them on and off. That came 
very naturally to me. Handling the theme through 
dialog I found very good. 

Riess: Speaking of the time and space relativity thing, it 

seems that idea really took hold of you, particularly 
in the play where time stands still.* Can you remember 
the growth of that idea? 

Stewart: Yes, I can tell you a lot about that. It's rather 

irrelevant, most of it. That play started in Grot one, 
in Italy, the old Greek colony of Croton. A terrible 
little town. We were there one night, and we probably 
had drunk a lot of wine at the table, and this man 
came wandering through, sort of not doing anything, 
Just a crazy kind of Italian setting there. I never 
knew what he was doing. He'd wander in and he'd wander 
out again. And in the play, you know, this is that 
men who keeps wandering and and wandering out, and 

*"I Wish I Might 1 


Stewart: never does or says anything. So we said this would 
make a good play, and we began talking about it. 
The thing developed up. 

I don f t know exactly where the idea of the time 
standing still developed from. I can't tell you 

Riess: The clerk in ths hotel keeps talking about being 
interested in science fiction. Maybe there was a 
very big vogue for science fiction. 

Stewart: Well, there was at that time. But there has been at 
a great many times. That's not very unusual. I 
thought that play worked out pretty well, though. 
That went off. 

Then I got this idea of having the scrambled 
proverbs. You noticed that part, didn't you? It's 
Just a gimmick, but it's a very good comic gimmick. 
Those things are rather hard to make up. That is, I 
don't know whether I can quote one or not, but you 
take two proverbs and run them together. 

Riess: Oh, yes! Malopropisms, sort of? Like making a silk 
purse out of a red herring, or something like that? 

Stewart: [laughing] Yes, that's right. 
Riess: Yes. I certainly did notice them. 

Stewart: The play that I had in my mind for a long time I 
think is a very good play. It's the last one I 
wrote, the one-act play about the two people, where 
the war breaks out and they don't know what's 
happening, and they can't speak the language. 

Riess: What was the name of that one? 

Stewart: "Beyond the River." I had some other title for it, 

too.* I never really made up my mind about the title, 

It often struck me in Europe how you were in a 
place where you don't speak the language, and maybe 

*"Beyond the River," or "Failure of Communication" 

Stewart: the radio would be going, and something terrific might 
happen and you wouldn't know what It was at all. So 
that's really what I tried to work out there. I 
thought that worked out pretty well. 

The thing that stymied me for a long time was, 
I thought I'd have to have a bilingual audience. Then 
I figured you could Just cut that bridge entirely, 
you see. Just have them all speaking English, but 
the stage convention is that they don't understand. 
I think that gets across all right. 

Riess: There was another play, "Where is Mr. Winkleton?" 

that seemed to Involve poltergeists. Can you sum up 
"Where is Mr. Winkleton?" 

Stewart: Well, I think that's the least successful of the 

plays. It's Just an old idea I had there, about a 
visit from some other world. Of course there was 
another play done on that theme, not so very long 
before I wrote that. I waited around too long before 
I wrote it. The other wasn't a very good play, but 
it got peoples' minds on that subject. As I say, I 
don't think my play comes off so well. 

Playwriting is a difficult field. There are 
only a few plays produced in any year, and then of 
course a few amateur attempts. Whereas a novel 
doesn't cost very much to publish. There are, I guess, 
a couple of thousand novels published every year. So, 
even though novels are hard enough to break into, at 
least you have a chance. 

I never was able to come across in writing plays 
really, although I liked to do it. I wrote a play in 
19^0 on General Grant. My agent took that quite 
seriously and she tried to place it, but couldn't 
get it across. I thought particularly on account of 
the war, and the situation about the war, the thing 
might have some possibility. That's the only serious 
play I ever wrote, really. The others I always think 
of in terms of comedy. 

I wrote one, which Ted helped with some too. 
We thought about it together when we were in Italy. 
We put it out under two names the only time I ever 
did that. That was the one called "I Wish I Might." 
They produced that in the University. It all went 


Stewart; pretty well, although I didn't see It there; we were 
in Greece about then. Then I wrote the Mr. Wlnkleton 
play. Then I wrote that one act play "Beyond the 
River," which I think has the best possibility of any 
of those. 

I wouldn't recommend your reading them partic 
ularly. I like writing plays tremendously. I'm 
sorry that I never was able to establish myself so I 
could learn more about it. The whole sense of the 
stage and that kind of thing as I said doesn't bother 
me at all. I took to it, I thought, very naturally. 
Expressing the thing through conversation and 
through action, together. Always knowing where you 
are and having a visual sense which I think I have 
very strongly. Knowing what you can do, what point 
of view you can express, all that. I did those things 
very rapidly. 

Riess: How well would drama have worked for getting across 

some of your themes, like environment, or simplifica 

Stewart: Well, it Just never occurred to me, or appealed to 
me, to write in that vein. As I say I wrote mostly 
comedies. I don't know why. I think the stage always 
struck me as an opportunity for being funny, and then 
I wasn't funny enough. But that's the way it worked. 
Maybe if I'd done a heroic play or something like 
that, I'd have gotten away with it. "General Grant" 
was, to a certain extent. 

Riess: Plays aren't about things like environment, ecology, 

Stewart: Oh, they could be. Novels aren't either, generally. 

Riess: I noticed in your files a parody of the Drama Section 

Stewart: Oh yes. That was lots of fun. That was really lots 
of fun. That was with Born Yesterday. Of course, 
Born Yesterday was the real play. Oh, I'll never 
forget some of those things. Ed Strong was playing 
the lead there. I had it all fixed up with him. He 
was going to get shaved, you see. That gave him an 
excuse to take off his shirt. And underneath there 
was a great big tattoo, [laughing] It said "Gertie." 


Stewart: His wife's Gertrude! I forget what it was you know, 
a lot of hearts and a naked woman and what not. 
[laughter] That was under it when he took off his 
shirt. I had that really staked out that time. I 
don't think that comes out in the text. 

Riess: It was a drama reading club? 

Stewart: Well, we act these things, you see. It's not a reading. 
We read the parts, but we also act the whole thing. 
It's a very remarkable group. It's been going for 
over forty years now, and it's very unusual to keep 
a group like that going so long. It's really been 
quite amazing. 

Bless: Nobody memorizes their part? 

Stewart: No, we don't memorize parts at all. That's what makes 
it so much better, because you don't have the strain 
of remembering your part, and you can really throw 
yourself into the acting. Then of course you get all 
sorts of funny situations, where people should be 
doing something and have to stop and look at the 
book. But it's really lots of fun. That was one of 
the best things we ever had, really, because it really 
came off in a big way. 

Riess: Were you in it for forty years? Are you still in it? 

Stewart: We're still in it, yes. I'm pretty much inactive 

now. We've put on a lot of plays in that time. In 
fact the first plays we ever gave were at our house. 
We even re-wrote some of the original plays as we 
went along in there. I had one very good line the 
heroine Just gets mixed up. First she starts 
declaiming about this country and its institutions, 
the people who inhabit it and I got the other ones 
in, about the people who inhibit it, and the people 
who cohabit it. [laughter] I thought they were very 
good variations. 

Riess: Did you ever go on with your idea of the story of 
the deceased member of the club whose history ends 
with his birth? A member of a club dies, and in a 
kind of "in memoriam" speech they never mention 
anything of his life but only what happened prior to 
it, because it is the events prior to a person's 
life that make the life. 


Stewart: Yes. No, I never did anything with that. The thing 
there is you get tagged every now and then around 
the University to do somebody's obituary, which is 
always kind of a lugubrious matter, some friend of 
yours has died, you know, and I think that's what 
got me thinking about that. You see, you have only 
a short piece to write anyway, you've got very strict 
space limitations. If you really were going to do 
it, you'd exhaust your space before you got to the 
time a man was born. But I never did anything more 
with that. 

Riess: Being yourself an action man, that doesn't seem a 
fair way to approach people's biographies. 

Stewart: Oh, no. It would be a gimmick. 

Riess: I wonder really how much you believe in the idea. 

Stewart: Well, it's Just a little slight projection of the 

fact that people say, "If you give me a child that's 
five years old, he's all fixed by that time." This 
Just puts it back a little bit farther. The heredity 
and the prenatal Influence might be thought as 
determining that. Actually I think heredity deter 
mines a great deal of people anyway. There's no 
question about that. I don't know how much the 
prenatal does. I don't think anybody knows enough 
about that. 

Riess: Except that in There Was Light you said that Joel 
Hildebrand had said that if he'd gotten hold of you 
earlier he could have made you into a great chemist.* 
And I've understood from our earlier interviews that 
if things had gone differently in the University that 
you might have become a great administrator rather 
than a great 

Stewart: [laughing] Well, keep that "great" out of it! I 

don't think I said that! No, I don't think I would 
however, actually. Those are Just interesting 

*p. 1^4-8, There Was Light. 


Riess: In an Interview you gave after Fire. I saw your comment 
that you felt terrible at the end of writing it, and 
you say, "one of the reasons that I felt terrible at 
the end of writing Fire may have been that in some 
sense I was repeating myself, and I knew most of the 
tricks which I was playing." Would you comment on 
that now? 

Stewart: Well, I don't remember particularly about the way I 
felt at that time now. But that's a general idea 
that I've been very sensitive about, doing the same 
thing twice. It bothers me. Of course that's what 
a great many writers do all the time. It's their 
stock in trade. They learn a few tricks, and they 
keep on using them. I never liked that. In lecturing 
it always bothered me. I hated getting around to 
the same point the next year, [laughing] Of course 
you can't help yourself there, because you do go 
around. In particular, I would think, well now maybe 
somebody's repeating this course I [laughter] 

So I did have that feeling about writing Fire. 
I think in a way it was the least Interesting book 
for me to do, because in a sense I was using the same 
tricks, and I knew the results I could get out of 
certain things. That failed to stimulate me the way 
other books have done. Although I think the book 
came off all right. 

Riess: Is it possible that your closeness to the actual fire 
made It seem a real tragedy? 

Stewart: Well, that might be true. 

Riess: I had a little speculation: In Earth Abides, one 

feels your acceptance of devastation, and of survival. 
I wonder whether the ideas of Earth Abides were with 
you at all back in Fire? 

Stewart: Well, I think they were. I thought about that book 
for quite a while before I wrote it. It must have 
been in my mind when I was writing Fire, but I'm not 
sure that there Is such a great difference between 
the two books in their attitudes. Because they both 
are of natural phenomena, a thing you can't argue 
about, although they tried to argue with Fire 
certainly. I don't think the two books are so very 
different in their attitudes, no. If that's what 
you're interested in. 


Riess: In Fire there 's the Idea that fire Is senseless and 
we should do everything to stop fire, and that fire 
is a terrible force. And yet when there's finally 
the fire in Earth Abides, the reader is surprised 
that it hasn't happened earlier, and people Just go 
someplace else, and the fire has more rights than the 
people, kind of. 

Stewart: Yes. Well, actually in Fire, as I wrote the book, I 
got into a certain amount of divided feeling about 
this, because fire is a natural force. The landscape, 
the forests, and everything else in the world have 
been formed against the background of fire, so that 
a lot of these things are not necessarily bad. I got 
more of that feeling. But I didn't really change 
the attitude of the book, which was that this fire 
was bad. I got into a little bit of psychological 
difficulty there. 

You know, the one man in Fire who is not emotional 
about the whole thing, the Super, he came to represent 
my attitude more than anybody else. I'm still 
that way, as a matter of fact. I don't mind cutting 
down trees. It's part of the cycle. I think small 
trees are Just as beautiful as big trees, as long as 
you give them a chance to grow. Just preserving all 
these forests doesn't strike me as so important, so 
long as you don't wreck things by bad cutting of the 
trees and destroying the land, and all that. That 
was the attitude of that man, you see. He saw it in 
the larger pattern. The other fellow got emotional 
about it. And of course he made mistakes partially 
because he got emotional about it. He tried to save 
the wrong things. 

Riess: How long was Earth Abides in the back of your mind? 

Stewart: I don't know when the idea first came to me. I 

suppose it was probably five or ten years in my mind. 

Riess: Was there ever any question about who would survive? 
About whether Joey would survive? 

Stewart: I rewrote the middle part of that book more severely 

than I ever rewrote any other book, novel or otherwise. 
Right now, offhand, I can't tell you all the details 
that got shifted around in there. I think Joey's 
death was always part of it, though. As I say, that 
was the part that gave me the most trouble. How do 


Stewart: you think it stands up to the rest of the book now? 

Riess: I don't find weak parts in it, but I wondered whether 
the Joey thing was something that you hashed around 
at all in your mind, whether in thinking about the 
book over ten years your thoughts were growing and 
changing in ways that would affect the outcome of 
the book. 

Stewart: I wish I could tell you more precisely, because as 
I say, I have a hard enough time keeping all my 
books in mind, much less keeping in mind the books 
they might have been if they had been some other 
way. [laughing] I'm a little bit vague about what 
it was. I remember the first part carried right 
through. That was fine. I really didn't pause on 
that. Then the middle of a novel, I think, generally 
speaking, is the hardest part to write. You realize 

You start out fresh, with a strong idea, or you 
shouldn't be writing at all. And that rush carries 
you through maybe a third of the way. Then you get 
more and more complications in the middle and it gets 
difficult. Then, after a certain part, you see the 
light at the end of the tunnel, and you come through. 
And in Earth Abides the middle part would about end 
with the death of Joey. After that, you see, things 
were laid out. They are laid out in the writer's 
mind, anyway. He can work from there more easily. 

The whole business in the middle there the 
first part of the Second Book, or whatever it's called 
there that was the difficult part. 

Riess: The book has two sections that are called the "Quick 
Years" and then in between them 

Stewart: There are three parts, you see. The third part is 
quite short. The third part was fine to do too. 
That went very well Just as the first part did. The 
middle part was the difficult one. I'm Just glad 
that it got good enough so that you don't think about 
it as being the weak part. 

Riess: Who did you model Ish in old age on? 

Stewart: I don't know. I've always liked doing old people. 
There are quite a few old people in my books, and I 





Stewart : 


Stewart : 

wrote them before I was old, too! But there's some 
thing that has always appealed to me with writing 
about them. I don't know why. 

Did I tell you about the boy who came up from 
Stanford to talk about Earth Abides a few months 
ago? I asked him what his favorite part of It was, 
or what he thought of It, Just to make conversation. 
He picked out Immediately he said the part he 
thought was the great part was the conversation of 
Ish and Jack at the first part of the last book. He 
said, "Oh, that's just right." 

I don't know how much of it was he reflecting 
his own relationship with his father or something. 
But I think that's a good part too. That's a very 
successful part, where he talks about the Americans. 

Was this anything like what your father was as you 

I don't think particularly, 
consciously in mind anyway. 

I didn't have that 

What's that pinching of Ish all about? 

Well, that's Just the way some people do with their 
gods, you know. They have that curious attitude. 
They have great respect and fear for them in some 
ways, but the gods have got to behave too! I don't 
know exactly where that comes from, but I'm sure 
there are things I've read about. 

When Man was coming out, you wanted to do it under 
a different name. 

Yes. I wanted it to have no name at all. After all, 
it's called Man, an Autobiography. I Just wanted to 
put it out that way, but they wanted to use my name. 
It's kind of silly the way it is now. 

But you could have prevailed, couldn't you? 

Oh, I suppose, yes, but I don't know. I never like 
to fight too much with my publishers. After all, 
they've got to think of it in terms of how they can 
promote the book and so forth. 


Riess: Then also in the early notes and things on Man, It 
sounds like it was thought of as a novel. 

Stewart: In a sense it is, I suppose. It depends on what 

you mean by a novel. "Novel" is a very vague term. 

Hiess: Fiction. 

Stewart: Yes. Well, it still is difficult. Because after 

all, it obviously is a kind of fictionalized scheme, 
this personification of man. (If you can call it 
personification.) And in a sense, using the form of 
"I," for instance, is a novelist! c device. What I 
don't like is having Ordeal by Hunger called a novel. 
I guess I've spoken about that already. I don't 
mind it in Man because in a sense it is. 

Rless: I wonder if the decision to sell it through that 
newly formed nonfiction book club helped sales. 

Stewart: Well, that didn't amount to much, I think, one way 
or the other. Apparently it was one of the times 
when they were trying to start a lot of book clubs 
and that was another one. I don't think it ever got 
anywhere very much. I don't think that made much 

Riess: Did you do much revision of Man? 

Stewart: No, not much. You can probably find some of the 
manuscript in there. No, I wrote that very fast. 

Riess: Did any of the readers at Random House give you any 
warning of the furor there would be about the book? 

Stewart: No, I don't think they did. That was probably mostly 
a result of the fact that part of It was published 
in Reader's Digest. That took it to a group of people 
that would be stirred up about a problem like that. 
You mean the religious? 

Riess: Yes, and the evolutionary things. 

Stewart: Yes, that surprised me. Then you see, even more 

surprising was the fact that the Norwegian publisher 
wouldn't publish it. He got a contract on it, and 
then wanted to revise it, to take that part out. I 
wouldn't let him. That was one time I did stand on 
my rights. And he never published it. That surprised 


Stewart: me very much, because Norway's a pretty advanced 
country, after all. 

Riess: Yes. Do you think it was the way the synopsis was 
handled that got to the people in Reade r * s Di^e s t?_ 
or do you Just think it was the readership of 
Reader's Digest? 

Stewart: Well, I never studied the way it was presented 
particularly. I don't like those condensations 
anyway. I think it was probably mostly the type of 
people it got to. 

Riess: Do you have any kind of control over the condensations? 

Stewart: No, you don't have, really, and it's a bad system. 
I wouldn't want to have anything to do with the 
condensation of my own book. You Just let it go, 
and the publisher always likes to sell it. They pay 
pretty well. People get some idea of the book. I 
don't know. I'm Inclined to think that the best thing 
for an author to do would be not to allow any con 
densations at all. They're not satisfactory things. 

Riess: Fire, condensed in Ladies Home Journal, became a tale 
for women, and in Reader's Digest, Judith was left out 

Stewart: Well, you've studied it more than I have! But that's 
natural, I suppose, that that would be the difference 
in the two. That is funny, though. 

Riess: Judith does come mostly in the beginning and the end 
of Fire, as parentheses, kind of. 

Stewart: Well, she could be left out. 




Riess: As I went through stuff in Bancroft Library, a lot 

of it was ideas written on one side of paper, and on 
the back would be an old exam paper from one of your 

Stewart: Yes, I recycled even in those days I 

Riess: One of the exams was to write an essay on Thoreau's 
attitudes based on the philosophy in Walden what 
they might consistently be at the present toward 
price regulation, Jet travel, fascism, strikes, eto. 
And then you warned the student not to make it "an 
imaginative orgy, but a reasonable argument." Now 
I wonder, actually, what kind of a teacher you were. 
If you had gotten back a really good imaginative 
orgy, wouldn't that have been the one that you would 
have liked? 

Stewart: Yes, if it were really good. But then the trouble is 
that if the student hasn't read the book and doesn't 
know anything about Thoreau and Just tries to write 
a romance which doesn't you don't want to give them 
much credit. You aren't going to get a really good 
thing, you know. 

Riess: In that period of time? 

Stewart: No. It's very very rare that you get an examination 
which has any real literary quality to it, naturally. 
Occasionally you do. 

Riess: How did your students approach you as an author? 
What did your being an author do? 

Stewart: Well, I wouldn't say that most of them knew anything 
about it in the first place, [laughter] You'd be 
surprised at how much students keep their professors 
in compartments, you know. "This man's a professor, 
and he doesn't do anything else." They're always very 
much amazed to see that you may be married or have 
a family or something like that. I think that was 
particularly true in my case. Lots of them didn't 
know I wrote books at all. Sometimes they'd come 
around and be surprised, you know, when they found 

I know there were a lot who did know about it, 
and did like my books and very possibly took some 
courses because I was a writer, but I was, on the 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 


whole, very little conscious of it. They didn't do 
much about it. They didn't come in and M ooh and ah" 
about it. 

Did they bring you a bunch of their writing? 

No, not very much. Most students are too diffident 
to do that sort of thing. Except for the students, 
of course, to whom I was giving a writing course. I 
didn't encourage it either, because in the first 
place almost all the writing would be bad, and in the 
second place, you can't do much about it. At least 
I was never able to do very much about it. You'd 
have to have Just exactly the right student in the 
right circumstances where you could say, "Go on and 
do something," and that doesn't work out very well. 
So I never really encouraged them to hand in a lot of 
stuff, except again the students I had in the writing 

Did you have some good ones there? 

Oh yes. I've kept up with some of them. Over a long 
period of time you maybe have some influence on them. 
Of course the attitude toward the teaching of writing 
is a strange one really. A student takes a three 
hour course and then wonders why he isn't a novelist. 
But if he were going to be, say, a concert pianist, 
he would, expect to take years and years of lessons 
to get the technique. But some way or other, writing 
is the idea is that anybody can write, if you Just 
have a little bit of facility. They don't work hard 
enough at it. 

A little passion 

Sometimes it's true. There are people who don't need 
any more than that, but the other analogy holds to 
some extent again, if you're trying to be an artist, 
you would take years and years of expensive lessons, 
and all sorts of training. 

Once. I think it has changed. 

It has changed a good deal I suppose now. 
look at some things it has, anyway. 

Just to 

A lot comes with natural ability in all those 
things. That used to be my answer when people would 



,' * ' 


Stewart: ask me, "Why don't they teach people to write better? 
Why can't you train authors In the university?" I 
would say, "Well, we could if you would give them to 
us for five or ten years. Then we could make something 
out of them. But you can't do it in one semester." 

Riess: What writers do you like these days? 

Stewart: Well, I've read so much, of course, it's hard for me 
to pick out what I really like or approve of at the 
present time. A lot of things I don't like. I could 
tell you something about that. 

For instance, I don't like these vague and 
uncertain things that you don't know whether to take 
as allegory or symbolism or whether it's a real story. 
I sometimes think when you can't tell a good story 
you call it symbolism. That sort of thing I don't 
like. I like good clean-cut writing, something that 
goes ahead and does not confuse the Issue by its 

Take a thing like Faulkner's Absalom most of 
Faulkner, not all of Faulkner. But to try and get 
into that book and try to get down what it really 
tells, it's a quite impossible kind of melodrama, 
and yet it's so difficult to follow what's happening 
that some way or other it seems very important. I 
can't see that it really is, when you get right down 
to it. That's one thing. 

I like Hemingway tremendously, good Hemingway. 
I think he has in some respects the best approach 
from my point of view. I don't go for all his hooey 
on certain ideas, but I like his approach, his 

Riess: You mean like his thing about courage, and manliness? 

Stewart: I like courage. No, the courage idea I take pretty 

well. I think that's what counts too. I don't go 

for his super-manhood necessarily, no. I'm not so 
much for that. 

Oh, I don't know. Ask me another question* I 
don't seem to be perking on that one. 

Riess: Well, that was related to the idea that I don't see 
how a person can teach writing anyway. 



Stewart: Well, one thing about a writing course in a university, 
is that it gives the person a certain amount of time 
to work at it. You work at that, and you can get 
three units credit, so that Justifies spending some 
time from the point of view of the university on it. 
I think that's probably what's most Important. The 
student can get the association with some other 
students who are writing too, and that has some 
importance. And he can get something out of the 
professor. I've Influenced some people, I know 
Milton Lott did very well on the novel he started in 
that class, but he wasn't particularly complimentary 
to me because he says what I really accomplished was 
I told him to get started writing, and [laughing] 
he'd been fussing around, "should I do it this way 
or should I do it that way?" and that kind of thing. 
So I finally Just shoved him into it and when he got 
going he was fine. Something like that is probably 
important. After all, he wrote beautifully, that 
part of that book. Then he never really got going 
on another one. I think he published three books. 

Riess: You have said that every author needs three books. 

Stewart: Yes. The first novel's hard, and the second novel 
is harder, and the third novel is hardest. If you 
get by the third novel, then you're probably all 
right. Lots of people never get beyond the first 
novel of course. 

Riess: I noted that Man was used as a textbook by some 

Stewart: It was used to some extent that way, yes. 
Riess: What do you think of that idea? 

Stewart: I thought it was fine. It was a good textbook. 

[laughing] It never really went too far, though. 
It's oversimplified, I guess. Didn't appeal to the 
academic mind too much. 

Riess: Did you ever do any additional material for Man? 
Stewart: No. There never was any call for it. 

Riess: There was a point where you were thinking of doing 

"Man in the Atomic Age." Maybe it was being reissued? 






Stewart: I don't think so, but I did a little introduction for 
it, not so long ago, for a French edition. There 
are so many of these reprints, I can't remember them 
all. I'm not sure that I've ever got a copy of that 
French edition. It may not be published yet. 

Riess: I wondered whether you had ever had the occasion to 
update American Ways of Life? 

Stewart: I thought about that very definitely. I tried to get 
the publisher to reissue it, and they thought it 
ought to be brought up to date. At the time I didn't 
think there was much sense in that. About the only 
part that would have to be changed very much would 
be the one on sex. I think there has been a consider 
able shift in that. 

Riess: Did you read the Greening of America, by Charles 
Reich? [Random House, 1970] 

Stewart: Yes. 

Riess: What did you think of that? 

Stewart: It didn't impress me very much. I didn't think that 
he was critical enough. His classes he took all the 
best possible examples in each one. His young person 
was Just a wonderful young person, and his old con 
servative was Just a wonderful old conservative. You 
don't get those people in too large numbers. I didn't 
think too much of it for that reason. 

I would think it's the kind of book that has 
been read a great deal, and probably has had a 
considerable amount of influence, but I think it's 
going to be a book that will be forgotten very fast. 
I think that people are snatching at straws around 
here now. He was about the only optimistic thing 
that you could lay your hands on. I don't think it 
will be a book which has a very long lasting influence, 






I was interested in some other ideas in your files 
[Carton 6, The Bancroft Library]. One was to write 
the story of a god. 

Yes, that's an idea that has intrigued me. I never 
did it, and don't think I ever shall. It's been done 
to some extent by various people. That would fit in, 
you see, very well with the kind of thing that I 
work with at times, the history of an idea put into 
a story. That was to have the god talking, you see, 
himself. His career, how he starts as a small god 
and works up to be the god of a powerful people. 
After a while, of course, he fades out. When he gets 
to the end, all that is left of him now is the fact 
that when we say "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe," that's 
the remnant of his ritual. As long as children say, 
"Eeny, meeny, miney, moe," he still has a little bit 
of life. 

As I remember it, it would have worked out that 
these other gods tell him, "You're gone. You have 
nothing left." And he has to hunt around until he 
finds children saying this, so that he can still keep 
on going. 

In notes from 19^9 you mention your satires, 
were your satires? 


Well, those were some little things I wrote, which 
my agents never were able to do anything with. They 
probably weren't marketable, but I liked them. They 
were three little pieces, Just the usual trick at 
least it's rather usual for me of Just changing the 
rules of something and seeing the way it would work. 
This is the old device of the visitor from another 
world, you know. One section was the question of 
what If they had reversed our situation. With us 
the intake of food is a social occasion, but you see, 
the elimination of food is obscene, or semi-obscene, a 
thing that you do in privacy. I Just reversed it 
the other way. You went into a separate compartment 
to eat your food, but you got together when you were 
eliminating it. That was the idea that one was worked 
out on. The others I don't remember exactly how 
they worked out, but that was the general idea. 

I would like to know what the other two would have 
been I You can't say to me that they were in a 
similar vein and Just leave it at that I [laughter] 


Stewart: Well, one of them had something to do with sex, I 
remember that. I can't remember exactly how I 
handled that one. I f ve still got copies of those 
things around somewhere. They're probably In the 
Bancroft Library. I'm not absolutely sure. I've 
got a little bit of stuff up in my office. I'd be 
glad to have you read it. I've got several things 
that you might be interested in. 

Riess: Oh. And I wanted to find out what happened to the 
unfinished murder, the detective story. [Carton 5] 

Stewart: Isn't it all there? 

Riess: Well, the files are labeled "unfinished" and so I 
took you at your word that it was unfinished. 

Stewart: I think it's probably unfinished in the sense that I 
never sent it for publication. I think the ending 
is there. It's unfinished in a qualitative sense. 

Riess: Because that would seem like really kind of a 
different writing for you. 

Stewart: Oh, yes, I did that very early on. That must have 
been done in the early thirties, before I had ever 
published a novel. 

I have another partial manuscript also, that 
fits in with those things. Oh, I got sort of tired 
of working on this. It's not a bad idea, though. 
This was again the change in the rules idea. How 
you work out, for instance, if the laws of gravity 
suddenly changed, what would happen? Which you can 
work out pretty well. Of course you don't know all 
the side effects. 

And then another one of course a great deal 
depends upon what angle the earth's axis tips at, 
and there are lots of theories that it has changed 
its position. You see, if you consider, say, that 
it changed and went straight up, that would make 
absolutely appalling differences in the world. It 
would change the climatic cycles completely. Or if 
you changed the rate of the spin of the earth, that 
would do all sorts of things that you don't think 
of offhand. 



Stewart: I was going to carry that on into less physical 

and more social matters. The idea has always Intrigued 
me, for instance, that if all the males in the world 
should die, it would be a very interesting situation. 
All the men, say, except the unborn babies. Then, you, 
see, the race would carry on all right, but you would 
have Just terrific social problems. There would be 
no men, and carrying on the mere physical set-up of 
the world would be extremely difficult for women. 
There 's no doubt they could do it, but there are so 
many jobs there are no women trained for, really at 
all. There are some women doctors. They would be 
tremendously outnumbered of course. They could hardly 
carry on. But there are very few women engineers. 
They are perfectly capable of doing these things, but 
they Just wouldn't know how. They'd have an awful 
time keeping up any going concern. 

Then of course you'd have the social problem. 
Here would be these babies born, and here they'd be 
growing up in a wholly feminine world, all these older 
women eyeing them speoulatively as they approach 
puberty. And of course, whether they would have any 
interest in the older women, whether they wouldn't be 
much interested in their contemporaries, the girls 
that were growing up. So you've got really a whole 
set-up there. That's a fantasy that's intriguing. 

I had another book I was figuring on. I did some 
work on it too, but I gave that up because it faced 
too many of the same problems as Earth Abides. I 
wanted to have a book in which you had the atomic 
destruction, with a certain number of people surviving. 
I'll bet right now there are bombproof s in Texas or 
someplace where people are stocked to live for years. 
If you had as much money as some of these people in 
Texas, wouldn't you do that? You could live through 
almost indefinitely. It would be difficult to work 
out, but you'd get yourself a pretty good hideout I'd 
think, stocked with enough food, and air-purifying 
equipment. If you have enough energy you can do 
anything like that. I talked that over with chemists 
and so forth. There are a lot of interesting ideas, 
but I felt I was repeating myself too much. 

Riess: And how would you stand on the whole question of 

what kind of life to repeat when it became possible 
to come above ground? You had done the whole fantasy 
of Earth Abides. 




Stewart: Well, that was part of the trouble. I didn't want to 
start the whole thing over again. My idea on this 
one though, was not to deal with the reconstruction. 
In fact I was rather going to end with a ship coming 
in from Australia or something like that. It turned 
out in the end that it had not covered the whole 
earth; there was still a sufficient amount of the 
earth left habitable. That way I got out of the 
problem of the reconstruction. Things were Just as 
bad as ever, in other words. 

Riess: One of the things, of course, about Earth Abides. 
is that the earth isn't devastated. 

Stewart: That was definite from the very beginning. Of course 
that was conceived before the time of the atomic 
bomb. In a way it's curious people were interested 
as much in it as they were, because they were thinking 
so much in terms of the atomic bomb as they still are, 
But that was Inherent in the book from the very 
beginning, the fact that it was only man who was 



INTERVIEW IV, Some other writers and poets: 
Hemingway, H.L. Davis, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost; 
"stages" of writing a book (maybe); the collected 
work in retrospect. (Recorded September 21, 1971) 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 



Stewart : 

My wife said you have a lot of questions for me, and 
I can just lie back and answer them. 

When we were on vacation, I read the Paris Review 
interviews. Do you know the series? 

Yes. I have never read them though. 

I thought that I would come to this interview with 
you more or less as if I had never been here before, 
and treat you strictly as a writer. I think I've 
been taking you on your word as a university person 
who also did a lot of writing, and now I want to think 
of you as Just a writer. 

Did you subscribe to the Paris Review? 


Did you know anybody that did? 

I don't remember anybody, 

There may have been, 

In what way, in the twenties and thirties, would you 
have been following contemporary writing? 

In the twenties I did not follow it very much. In 
the thirties I worked around to it more. I read 
reviews like the New York Times I always kept in 
touch with that which gives you the best general 
coverage. And I saw other reviews too, like the 


Stewart : 





Stewart : 

Saturday Review and the Herald Tribune Books. I never 
got Into the more esoteric reviews, very much. 

Was there a group of people In Berkeley who were 
Interested In this kind of expatriate movement? 

I don't think so very much. Howard Baker and Dorothy 
Baker were in that to some extent. Howard was over 
there during the twenties, and knew Gertrude Stein 
and some of the other people. He was about the only 
one I can think of really, around Berkeley. 

Was there anybody who would have been teaching anything 
so contemporary on campus? 

I don't think we went in much for contemporary at 
that time. Of course, T. K. Whipple was doing his 
writing then, and he was probably doing something on 
that in his courses. Do you know his work? He did a 
book or two on contemporary authors. But it wasn't 
the expatriate particularly. He was not much interested 
in that. He wrote more on people like Sinclair Lewis, 
and Willa Gather. A more American group. 

Would the students at that point have been modelling 
themselves on for instance, what was the effect on 
writers of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises? 

Oh. Well, that had quite a big effect. The other 
Hemingway books too. Farewell to Arms. They had a 
big effect, I think, on students and everybody else. 
There was a whole Hemingway wave of writing at that 
time. It never affected me directly, I never started 
writing about that kind of thing, but I think his 
whole general attitude affected me considerably. 

What was his whole general attitude? 
sum it up? 

How would you 

I opened myself up on that one! Well, in the first 
place, his style, that marvelously clean-cut style 
with which he wrote, which seems to me so far removed 
from Gertrude Stein, who was supposed to have had an 
influence on him. They seem to me to be completely 
opposite types. And I think that certainly had its 
influence on me, although I never directly imitated 


Stewart: And I think his Ideas had an Influence too. 

That is, his liking to get close to the subject, and 
really experience what he was writing about, which I 
think is a trait with Hemingway. 

Hiess: To experience it in the process of writing about it? 

Stewart: No, I think before he wrote about it. 

Hiess: I wanted to ask you about literary round-table things. 

Stewart: We had very little of that, as far as I was in contact 
with it, anyway. I think not enough. I remember 
Louis Simpson, the poet, was out here in the department 
for five years or so, and one reason he left was he 
didn't think we had enough of that sort of thing. He 
put it in terms of street cafes. 

Riess: And when was it that he was here? 

Stewart: He was here about 1955 * *62, something like that. 

Hiess: And there wasn't anything here then? 

Stewart: Well, I don't know that it's particularly characteristic 
in the United States in general, is it? 

Rless: I have the image, correct or not, of places like the 

Stewart: Yes, there is some of that. The Southern Review group, 

Hiess: I guess the New York Algonquin kind of people were 
humorists mostly. 

Stewart: I think they were more than that. They were critics. 

Riess: It opens up a consideration of why people write. It 
seems almost, for some of the people who write, that 
if there were that sort of round table thing, it 
would take a lot of the steam off. I mean, if the 
point of writing is communication, once you've done 
it, you've done it. 

Stewart: I would rather go along with that opinion, that all 

this talking about it isn't particularly good. There 
tend to be people who talk about writing, and people 



Stewart : 


who write, 
that idea. 

I would rather tend to go along with 
Which Is what you were suggesting. 

Stewart : 



I know that you having seen one end of It have had 
a very long correspondence with H. L. Davis, and I 
wondered If he was somebody with whom, for Instance 
in your letters, you would develop Ideas or whether 
there was anybody with whom in correspondence you 
would develop ideas for a book. 

No, I don't think there was. I don't think I ever 
developed very many ideas with him. There are a 
fair number of letters there, but of course it's 
spread over a good many years too. It was not a very 
active back and forth conversation. 

It's so vivid when a letter comes. 

Yes, he was a marvelous writer. Now he, during most 
of that time, you know, had a fairly frustrating 
career as a writer. Do you know his work? 


Well, he did one wonderful book, Honey in the Horn.* 
He never really got together with himself again. He 
didn't do anything for quite a while after that. 
Then he did write. He didn't do it very well. And 
he had he even had a lot of financial troubles, 
because he couldn't keep writing very well. 

He wrote a wonderful letter I I was very fond of 
him. He was a very curious man, as so many writers 
are of course, but he was a little more so than usual. 
He had sort of started out as a kind of hillbilly 
singer, as they went in those days. He did it with 
a guitar. One of the great evenings in my life was 
when we had, over at the house on San Luis Road, let's 
see, Carl Sandburg and Bud Bronson** and Harold Davis 
all there singing. 

*H.L. Davis, Honey in the Hom William Morrow Co., 
N.Y., 1935- 

**Bertrand H. Bronson. 


Stewart: You don't know Bronson? He's a professor at 
Berkeley, retired now. He could play the guitar 
all around them. He's a much better guitar player 
than either of the others. But he's not a born 
performer, you see. They were perfomers. It was 
wonderful. They'd pass the thing back and forth, 
and sing different songs. That was a wonderful night. 

Riess: Did you have your accordion at that point? 

Stewart: No, I kept out of it. I'm not in that class! [laughter] 

Riess: How did you meet Davis? 

Stewart: Well, he used to live up on Buena Vista, where it 
goes up the hill, after he'd written Honey in the 
Horn. I don't know exactly how I first met him, but 
through some neighbor up there. Then he had a house 
up in Napa Valley, up in the hills, before people went 
to Napa Valley much. We used to go up there and see 
him. He was married to his first wife then. They 
were fighting some of the time. They got divorced 
before too long. He never had any children. He 
never really was a very house-broken man, if you know 
what I mean. He was always living in a mess and 
drinking coffee all the time, at all hours of the 
day, thick black coffee, keeping a horse practically 
in the house. That was the general style of life 
that he led. 

Riess: A Bohemian? 

Stewart: Well, he would have scorned that title, [laughter] 
I wouldn't call him a Bohemian. He was a natural, 
really, kind of a natural backwoodsman. Always plenty 
of guns around. Not much of a drinker. He drank 
hardly any alcohol. He had terrible teeth. His teeth 
were always going to kill him, according to his wife, 
and I guess eventually they did. 

He got married again and lived down in Mexico, 
largely because it was cheaper, but also because he 
liked it down there. He'd been down there a lot, 
and Betty, his second wife, had been too. We saw 
them some also. And they'd come back up here 
occasionally. He had quite an interesting career. 

Then he got gradually sicker and sicker and poorer 
and poorer. They had a little house down in Oaxaca. 



Stewart : 

Stewart : 


They managed to live one way or another. I suppose 
she picked up a few Jobs, acting as a guide. She 
spoke very good Spanish. She'd, acted as a guide 
for tourists, and I suppose they kept going one way 
or another. He got sicker and sicker. Finally he 
had to have a leg amputated. I don't know exactly 
what he died of, but I think It was his teeth or 
something like that. He never took any care of 

Did he have an attitude about it? 
thing of principle? 

Did he make It a 

No, I don't think so. I think he Just liked to live 
that way, and he did it. "I have paid my price to 
live with myself on the terms that I willed. 11 Ever 
hear that? 

No. You say it like you're quoting it. 

I am. That's from Kipling, a part of Kipling nobody 
ever knows.* I always appreciated the line. I think 
it applied to Harold too. 

After he died, everybody started worrying about 
his wife, how she was going to live, on what. It 
seemed to me she could probably take care of herself 
better without him than with him, because he wasn't 
bringing in much money. But just about the time they 
started worrying about her, why, she married a 
millionaire, [laughter] In fact, she married Harold's 
publisher. She was quite a person too, his second 

According to legend, at least, Harold was her 
fourth husband, and her other husband was the fifth. 
I'm not sure about that she's been married at least 
three times I know, but I wouldn't guarantee the five. 
I always said she was a professional wife. That is, 
she had to be married to somebody, taking care of 
them. She is a very nice person. When we last heard, 
he was in Australia raising goats. 

Sandburg was here then too. 

Was he a friend of 

*Kipling, "Epitaphs," Vol. 28, Scrlbners, 1919- 


Stewart: He became quite a good friend toward the end of his 
life. It happened accidentally. He came out here 
one time to lecture, and he expected to be put up. 
The person who was handling him for the University 
asked if we wanted to have him for a guest, and we 
said sure. So he came out to see us, and then he 
stayed with us several times after that. We got to 
know him very well. 

He was with us the last time when he came out, 
and he'd really gone to pieces. He should have 
stayed at home. That was a terrible thing. He was 
Just gone. 

Hiess: Was he sick? 

Stewart: He was senile. He shouldn't possibly have been trying 
to put on a show. He couldn't remember the words of 
his own songs. He just hung on too long. He brought 
his wife along that time, to take care of him. She 
did what she could, but she couldn't help him out on 
the platform. 

Riess: When you knew him earlier, was he the kind of person 
you could talk to about what he was doing? 

Stewart: Oh yes, he was, very much. He was always talking 

about his songs, singing with his guitar. He was a 
very pleasant fellow. I liked him. And of course, 
Frost came out in those years too, you know. We never 
had them together. They were an interesting contrast 
in many ways. Of course they hated each other. It 
wouldn't have been a good idea to have them together, 
though it might have been fun. 

Hiess: Why did they hate each other? 

Stewart: They were very different types. I can see why they 

didn't get along at all. They were both great actors. 
People don't realize that, about Frost particularly. 
Frost was a great actor. He played his part very 
well. Sandburg was a great actor tool They played 
different parts. 

I think Robert always rather liked me, because 
he realized I saw through his part. Most people 
didn't, you know. Most people thought he was really 
this great humanist, and so forth. He was actually 
something different from that. He was a great 




Stewart: conservative, you see, really. 
Sandburg was a real liberal. 

Almost reactionary, 

I always thought one of the most interesting 
times we ever had with that pair was the time when 
Frost talked at the Inaugural. Do you remember that? 
The Kennedy Inaugural? And Sandburg happened to be 
staying with us at that time. He never got up till 
late, ordinarily, but he came padding up the stairs 
early that morning to hear the ceremonies. He never 
carried any clothes with him. He carried one suit, 
and I don't think he had a pair of slippers. He came 
padding up in some kind of old bathrobe I think we'd 
probably lent him [laughing]. He came up to hear 
this. He was delighted when Robert forgot his part. 
I never believed that at all, I always believed 

Riess: You didn't believe he'd forgotten his part? 

Stewart: No. No. I'm a complete cynic. That was a beautiful 
piece of acting. One of the best things he ever did. 
Of course my wife was always telling him to get some 
glasses. He never could see anything, [laughter] 

In the first place, he was supposed to write a 
poem for the Inaugural, which he shouldn't have done, 
because he didn't support Kennedy. He didn't like 
Kennedy. Of course, Carl should have had the Job 
really, because he'd been an out and out supporter of 
Kennedy way back. But the Kennedys of course asked 
Frost, probably never even thought of Sandburg. But 
he would have put on a good show. 

Well, you see this is my interpretation. In 
the first place, Frost couldn't write a very good 
poem for the Inaugural, because his heart wasn't in 
it, you see. He Just couldn't turn out a poem on 
something he didn't want; so he wrote this terrible 
thing. Then he started to read it. Either he broke 
down, or else he'd planned to break down. So he 
said he couldn't see it, and everybody thought, "Oh, 
the poor man, the poor man." There wasn't a dry eye 
in the audience. 

Then he said, "Well, let me recite this other 
poem." He'd never been a patriot, you see, at all. 
He'd been an expatriate part of his life, and he 
never supported the New Deal or anything. He was 
kind of reactionary. The only poem he'd ever written 


Stewart: In his whole life which had any possible application 
to a thing of this sort was, you know, "The land was 
ours before we were the land's. 11 * That's the way it 
starts. So he recited that. And that was close 
enough to it that he got by with it. 

Then the platform started to burn up! Do you 
remember that? 

Riess: Yes! The platform smoking and everybody looking 
down around their feet. 

Stewart: Yes. And there was Carl Sandburg watching this 
[laughing] in our house. 

Riess: That's very funny. 

Stewart: Well, that's heresy of me to say that, but that's how 
it looked to me. 

Frost did I tell you about the time we took 
him up to Nicasio once? Well, he was out here and 
he wanted to go to a place he called Nicasha. We'd 
never heard of it. Finally, Ted figured out it was 
this place called Nicasio [Spanish pronunciation]. 
So we got him into the car and drove him up there. 
It's a nice little place. 

The reason he wanted to go there was that he'd 
spent a summer there on vacation with his family, 
with his mother, when he was, I think either three 
or five years old. He was very young anyway. And 
he was nostalgic. He wanted to see the place, and 
see what It was like. So we drove him up there. It 
was a lovely day. He thought he recognized the general 
location, but otherwise he couldn't recognize anything. 
The old hotel where he'd stayed which he thought he 
might remember, had burned down, so he didn't see 
that. He went all around trying to find something. 
He couldn't find anything. We had a nice time. The 
chief thing he remembered, when he was up there, was 
playing croquet with a little girl and she hit him 
on the head with a mallet, practically killed him. I 
suppose that's in the biographies, but maybe not. 

*From The Gift Outright. 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Then coming back, along the Embarcadero down 
there, he said, "Another boy and I stole a pig down 
here one time, and carried it off. It was mostly 
the other boy. He was older, but I went along." He 
was a boy in San Francisco, you remember. 


You said Frost was an expatriate? 


He was for a while, literally. He was an uninvolved 
man. He didn't tie in very much with what was going 

In this country, you mean? 

Yes. Well, you know that poem, "Two Tramps in Mud 
Time." That's sort of his platform. 

It's funny that the Kennedys chose him, as probably 
the essence of what they think of as New England. 

I think it was natural enough they chose him, because 
he's a great poet. He was the best figure to tie 
the old and the new together. He was better than 
Sandburg that way, at least if you look at it from 
the outside. 

Archibald MacLeish? 

Well, Archibald MacLeish is my man. I would rather 
have his poetry than almost any of them. But not 
so many feel that way. 

I'm using this word expatriate, and I'm really not 
sure in what sense it's meant. For instance, when 
you went to Mexico to write, were you then an 
expatriate ? 

Well, it's a vague term. It means a person who lives 
outside the country, particularly the United States. 
I don't know that it's referred, to in other countries 
particularly. I wouldn't say being away for a year 
would put you in that class. Although the state of 
mind rather than the length of time would be what 
determines it. 

Well, what's the state of mind? That America's an 
impossible place to get anything done in? 


Stewart: Yes. 

Rless: Did you know Scott Fitzgerald or Edmuond Wilson at 

Stewart: I knew Scott Fitzgerald. I never met Edmuond Wilson, 
until later. He was in the class ahead of me, and 
the place was big enough even then that you didn't 
know people so much outside of your own class. I 
knew Scott Fitzgerald. Not well at all. We were 
very different types. We wouldn't have known each 
other particularly. I remember being in a couple of 
small classes with him. He was a very brilliant 
fellow. Of course he flunked out, along about halfway, 
because he never did any work. But he came back and 
got his degree, I think. 

I think if I ever write my chapter on Princeton 
for my autobiography, I'm going to give it the title, 
"Oh Yes, I Once Saw Scotty Plain." 

Riess: You once saw Scotty what? 

Stewart: Plain. That's Browning's poem, "Did you once see 
Shelley plain?" 

Riess: In his introduction to the first series of the 

Paris Review interviews, Malcolm Cowley points out 
that the idea of these interviews is new. I thought 
it was surprising that it didn't begin until the 

Stewart: Well, it's partly mechanical. It becomes so easy 
to talk with people when you've got a machine like 
this, you see. That's one big thing. So much of our 
life is determined by mechanical reasons when you 
come down to it. But there certainly was a lot of 
interest, say, in Henry James and his craft. Nobody 
could have been more interested, and written more 
about it, really, than he did. 

Riess: Cowley looked at all the writers interviewed and 
compared them at four stages in writing. First, 
getting the "germ" of the story 

Stewart: Yes. I think you have to do that, sometimes. 
Riess: Now, don't be difficult about all this I [laughter] 

Then there's the meditation period, and then 
there's the first draft, and then there's the 

Stewart: I don't know what he means by meditation; maybe I 
would change some things about that second one. 

Riess: Meditation is going about your normal business and 
yet your mind is working and working on the idea. 

Stewart: Well, that certainly is true. You certainly have to 
do that. In a sense you're appraising the idea. 
After all, you put a pretty big investment in a book, 
and you don't want to do it unless you think this is 
the book you want to do. I think that's largely it. 
It's appraising. You're seeing what the difficulties 
are, what the weaknesses of the whole thing are, 
what it's advantages are, whether it's a book you 
want to do. 

And then, in most of my books, I would have to 
put in another phase. After meditation comes well, 
I hate to use the term research, but that's probably 
the term you'd have to use. It isn't so much research 
as it is getting your material together, which may 
not attain the level of actual research. It may, of 
course. You can't tell. That was always a big stage 
with me. Of course the meditation is an indefinite 
length or period. That might run into years as far 
as that's concerned. You're not really doing any 
work, so that doesn't count very much, as time goes. 

But the research, or the background work, on 
Storm and Fire, took more time than the writing of 
the book. And the same with some of my other books 
too, I should say. So I would have to say that 
there's a period when you have to gather Information, 
gather material. I should think that would be true 
of a great many writers, even if they're not writing 
books which are like my books. I suppose you could 
count that in as the meditation, but for almost any 


Stewart: story, you've got to work up something. You don't 
know everything about it. You want to know whether 
they have balconies on the rooms of a hotel, or 
something like that, or how the balconies are made. 
Something like that, some kind of technical point you 
get into. You don't want to stop at least you 
shouldn't have to stop in the middle of writing a 
book and go out and find out about things like that. 
They ought to be with you already. So I say that 
you would have that. 

And then, of course, obviously you've got to 
write the first draft. The chief differences among 
writers, as you say, would come in how you go about 
that. I always did a fast first draft. I wrote one 
very rapidly, particularly after I got dictating 
equipment. I could tear through I've done, occasionally 
as many as five, maybe six thousand words in a day, 
which is very fast. At that rate you get a first draft 
in a very short time, a book of ordinary length. 
Because a hundred thousand words is a fairly long 
novel. That's only about sixteen days at that rate! 

Riess: When do you stop? Do you stop at a point where you 

know exactly what the next word will be? Do you stop 
at an up point or a down point? 

Stewart: I would usually stop when I get tired. You get to 
the point where you start skipping, and think, "Oh, 
that isn't worth writing about." Then you realize 
you're tired, and you quit. I never have any trouble 
picking up the thread again. I pick it up immediately, 
and go on. But I couldn't take more than so much, 
Just from the matter of either physical or mental 
weariness. As I say, if you get to the point where 
it doesn't seem worthwhile, then you quit fast. That 
would usually come, say, In about when I was really 
going strong I would dictate in the morning maybe 
two hours and a half, and then maybe do an hour in 
the afternoon. That would be working hard. Usually 
I'd do less than that. 

When I say five or six thousand words, that 
would be a very occasional day. That's probably too 
much to do, because you would be getting tired, at 
least I would be getting tired. It's better to 
figure that you can do two or three thousand. You 
get through a book fast enough that way. And then 
it makes a difference some people don't write that 



Stewart: way. Some people write very slowly and finish it 
off completely. There's only one draft. I think 
Cowley* oversimplified a little on that, because I 
think there's more variety in the way people work. 

Riess: He was noting the variety. For instance, Hemingway 
went back to the start each day. 

Stewart: Yes, I've heard that. I don't see how he could do 
that literally. What he said was, I think, that he 
read the whole manuscript over before he started 
again. I don't see how he could do that literally 
in a book of any length. Just wouldn't have time, 
and I think you'd wear yourself out reading it over 
before you picked up on the story. But that's 
Hemingway, and you'd have to take his word, I suppose. 

Talking about myself, I would say that I didn't 
read it over very much. I'd dictate it and get the 
typing back from the secretary, then I'd usually read 
it over and Just correct all the gross mistakes, the 
places where the secretary didn't hear the right word 
and that kind of thing. I wouldn't do much more 
with it, till I got the whole thing done. Then I'd 
go back and do it over very carefully, several times. 
I figured I would read it five times, go through it 
five times, counting the first draft. 

Riess: Would you pencil in changes or did you dictate again? 

Stewart: I usually would not dictate again. I would get it 
transcribed triple space, to leave a lot of space 
to work with. I also worked at the mechanical 
problem, the most difficult one, of inserting something 
in the middle. I had a paper-cutter. I'd Just cut 
the page straight across and then staple it with a 
stapling machine. Cut the whole thing through, put 
a sentence in and go on. You see. Otherwise, you'd 
begin to think again, oh, it's Just too much trouble. 
I can't be bothered. How can I get that sentence in? 

You ought to take a look at some of those first 
draft manuscripts in the Bancroft. Each one got to be 

*I should call him Malcolm since we're good friends. 


Stewart : 

a mess before I got through, 
different things. 

Then I would work at 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 
Stewart : 

In the second draft, of course, I established 
the story. That's what it's going to be, when you 
get through the second draft. If there are any large 
things to do, you do them then. You put in a whole 
page or two at one place, then you cut out a couple 
of things somewhere else. You do all the big work 
new incidents, perhaps. By the time you get through 
the second draft you have a pretty good set-up. 

Then the third time, I went through it primarily 
for details of style, wording, and details. I learned 
something about myself eventually which I hadn't 
realized before. My focus is not upon words but upon 
structure. I will go to any pains to get the word 
order properly. I don't care nearly so much about 
the mot Juste. I discovered that about myself after 
many years. That comes in the third and fourth times 

What do you mean by word order "proper?" 


Well, "proper" essentially is so that the person reads 
it through without a break, so that you don't skip 
back and say "What was that attached to?" The whole 
thing goes right straight through. 

You read your things aloud, don't you? 

The fifth time I read it aloud. That was largely 
focused on rhythm and the way it sounded. 

Isn't that quite unusual? 

I think it is. I don't know anybody else that ever 
did that. Actually, I suppose people do. 

I should think a lot of books wouldn't see the light 
of day, if the author had to read them aloud. 

Well, that might be a good thing. 
That seems like a hard test. 

Well, it's very interesting. You get things you don't 
catch otherwise, you see. Usually I read it aloud to 



Stewart: myself, because If you're reading to somebody else 
you don't want to stop and figure it out and make 

And of course another thing you have to watch 
is that you can carry a great deal with your voice. 
You've got to realize that this may sound all right, 
but it won't go to the reader. Of course that's 
pretty well worked out in the third and fourth times 

I found I didn't pause for words very much. 
Maybe that was the reason I wasn't so much concerned 
with them. But I had a good vocabulary and I was at 
home in my own vocabulary. I think that's the great 
thing. This person who sweats over a word doesn't 
really know what he wants to say. 

About that vocabulary business, I suppose I have 
a very large vocabulary from my natural background, 
my profession. People think I have a wonderful 
memory. I'm not sure that that's the point. What I 
would say about my memory is that it's under control. 
It gives me what I want when I want it, a very nice 
thing. I think that worked out in the vocabulary also, 

What amuses me is that every now and then, even 
yet, I'll use a word and realize that I never used 
that word in my life before I Where do these things 
come from? That's not only with me, but people in 
general. You're carrying this word somewhere, and 
all of a sudden it happens to be the word you want. 
And you never used it before. 

Riess: I was wondering about the first writing, whether you 
can describe the sensation of where the words do come 

Stewart: Oh, well, that's Just the same way they come when you 
talk. It's no different from that. I tried in my 
first draft, particularly with dictating, to think of 
it as talking. I didn't worry whether I got it the 
way I wanted it particularly, the way I wanted it 
exactly. Of course, the better you can get it the 
first time, the better, but I didn't stop to do it 
all that carefully. The thing is to get it out, get 
it on paper, essentially. 



Stewart : 


Stewart ; 


Stewart ; 
Stewart ! 

Stewart : 

Well, some writers have described the sensation of 
almost being dictated to themselves, as if they 
were the medium. 

Yes. I don't think I'd ever say that, 
a figure of speech. 

I guess it's 

What is a nice feeling is when you come back to 
your dictation that's been transcribed and you 
realize, "It wasn't as bad as I thought it was!" 
You feel that it really came out pretty well. That's 

As far as getting the ideas, if you're a writer, 
naturally you're looking for things to write abont. 
Even if you're only trying to be a writer, naturally 
you're looking for things. You get probably a good 
many ideas. I don't think they're as rare as all 
that, but you can't use them all. Some of them you 
test out. This meditation, for instance, results in 
throwing a good many ideas away. 

This "germ" seems to be the point that organizes a 
whole lot of disorganized material that's already 
been around. 

Yes. I think it's quite an interesting mental process, 
because it does seem to come with all its parts put 
together. Your mind works so fast on it that you see 
the thing, a very large part of it, very quickly. 

That goes back at least to Henry James. Henry 
James wrote about that, about what he called I think 
"the prick of the virus," whatever he meant by that. 

Implying that your body has to be ready and waiting 
to accept the disease? 

Well, "I could write a story about that." 
What do you mean by that? 

I mean that's when you get the idea. "I could do 
something on that. Yes." 

Oh, I see what you mean. 

"I could do that. That might be kind of good." 

As I say, a great many of them get left by the wayside, 


Stewart: because you don't have enough time to write them all. 

Rless: In an interview once you were quoted as saying, "I 
think with Emerson that a man Just has to watch for 
those flashes which sometimes come to him." 

Stewart: Yes. I agree with that. There is a certain point 

at which these ideas come. I don't record it, because 
I don't keep a diary. If I had kept a diary I would 
have written down things like that. "I had this idea 
today." That's the sort of thing that Emerson does. 

Riess: You didn't put them in your book of dates and events. 
Stewart: No. 

Take a thing like Man, now, that must have come, 
obviously, as an idea, one of those flashes. That's 
the only way it could come. But I don't remember 
when that came. 

Riess: And in the writing, do ideas come up that you have 
to put aside, because they're not clearly part of 
whatever it is that you're working on? 

Stewart: That's very difficult to answer for me. I've wondered 
about that in the general way. Just what is the 
difference between an idea and a finished work of 
art, say? There is a difference, but Just what makes 
It Is hard to say. 

Of course most writers put in a lot that they 
shouldn't put in, as a matter of fact; to cover up 
a small amount of essential material there's a lot of 
lighting the cigarette and description of the hero's 
hair and eyes. That's one of the big tests of course, 
whether as a writer you can transform the germ into 
something that stands up on itself, which is a story 
or a work of art whatever you want to call it. 

Have I used my phrase, "Don't state, demonstrate" 
with you? That used to be one of my slogans when I 
taught writing. That's very important. Never, 
theoretically at least, never make a statement about 
a character. Always show the character in action. 
I think that's one of the basic things about writing 
fiction. If you write, for instance, "he was a great 
wit," that's useless. If you can't show him making a 


Stewart: Joke, you'd better leave it out. You'd better make 
him something else. 

In the same way, stories about poets are not 
very good, unless you can write the poetry for them 
which you probably can't. Stories about painters 
are all right. Nobody expects you to give the drawing, 
or painting. There are some things you can't help 
yourself on. You've got to describe the heroine. 
But after all, there's nothing duller than to describe 
a beautiful girl. That doesn't get you anywhere. You 
have to show her in action. You have to show the 
effect she has on people. That goes clear back to 
the Iliad. You know that magnificent section in the 
third book there where Helen comes out on the wall and 
even the old men are impressed. That's a wonderful 
passage. I don't think Helen's ever described. But 
you know she's there, when she comes out. 

Something that has interested me is the question 
of what I call the motive power of a novel. That is, 
what makes one thing more important than another? 
You have the whole world before you. Why should you 
choose to write about some things and not about others?* 

Of course, I'm a plot man. I still stick by the 
plot idea. The microcosm. You start from a point of 
rest. (I'm getting into my course again, here.) 
You pass through a period of uncertainty, and you 
end on a point of rest. And there you've got a plot. 
That's the way all good plotted stories, including 
dramas, have to be conceived. You have to choose the 
things that determine this movement, this uncertainty, 
so that eventually you eliminate what is not getting 
there, and you arrive at a point of rest. 

*[addltional material dictated in response to a request 
for expansion of this discussion, 15 March 1972] 

You suggest that I have not answered the question 
that I have raised about the "motive power of a novel." 
I think that I really have answered it fairly well in 
what I say about the plot. That is, the motive power 
then becomes anything which moves the story in the 
direction of the final point of rest. In a historical 
novel the problem is simpler. In of the Giants, 
for instance, I placed Judith in a historical situation, 
and as the known history of the period changed, she had 
to adjust with it. 


Stewart: For example, it's the old "boy meets girl" theme. 
In "Romeo and Juliet," until the two of them meet, 
nothing starts. It's a point of rest, with respect 
to the central pair. Of course it gets fouled up a 
little bit because there's the other girl there, but 
nothing happens with that. Then when he sees Juliet, 
off it goes. Then you don't know what's going to 
happen. It goes from point to point of uncertainty, 
works up, and then it works down again. At the end 
everybody's dead, and that's it! You've got your point 
of rest, [laughter] That's it. 

Sometime I ought to start in with the first of 
my novels and go right straight through. 

Riess: I'd like to have you do that, yes. 

There's a kind of an agreement on these Review 
interviews that every author has one or two ideas that 
they're trying to get across in the whole collective 
works, an ideal shelf of writing. 

Stewart: I wasn't thinking quite so much in those terms. I 

was thinking of the technical approach. You can see 
I shy off from this idea approach in a sense. This 
idea of "what I was trying to do" I don't like that 
either. I think I spoke about that. I think if I 
didn't do it, there's no use telling what I was 
trying to do. 

The problem is more difficult with a non-historical 
novel. There you are obviously manipulating the story 
all the time. You start with something say, boy meets 
girl. That doesn't raise any difficulties. But every 
thing after that, unless you are following a sequence 
of real events, becomes essentially contrived, though 
that is a dirty word in writing fiction. Good fiction 
merely gives the impression that the series of events 
was not contrived. And it may do that extremely well, 
so well indeed that you can break down and weep over 
the trials of the characters. I still may not make 
myself altogether clear about motive power, but I'm 
not setting out right here to write a book on the 
theory of fiction. [G.R.S.] 


Riess: Okay, well, right. I won't pursue that. 

Stewart: Oh, if there's anything definite you want to ask, 
ask me. That's all right. 

Riess: Would you agree that in your writing there are one 
or two main ideas, and that everything is part of a 
big package? And, is there more to the package, in 
your mind, of your collective works? Or, as far as 
getting your idea across, is your "shelf full? 

Stewart: Well, I've been thinking a little bit about that 
since I've been talking with you. I think I said 
here earlier that the idea of simplicity was a big 
idea in my books. And you brought up the idea of the 
ecology, and that certainly is true. I'd go along 
with you on that. That's been very important. 

I think, in a sense, the weakness of my work, 
looked upon as a whole, is that it doesn't lead from 
one thing to another. The books tend to be very much 
discrete. That's the way I like them, though, that's 
what gave me vigor and energy to go ahead. I couldn't 
possibly have done the sort of thing that some authors 
have done a series of linked novels over the years. 
I would have bored myself sick. 

Riess: What about Faulkner? 

Stewart: Well, Faulkner. He didn't tie up so much he had a 
center, but he didn't tie the books up together too 
much. There have been others of course that stuck 
to the same topic. Many writers have stuck to at 
least a style. I mean, when you talk about Hardy, oh, 
you think about a certain type of writing. His works 
stick together. Even Dickens sticks together after 
a sense. You know pretty much what a Dickens novel 
is going to be. They are variations on a theme. And. 
the Forsvthe Saga. That sort of thing, where you get 
at least a large number of volumes tied up in one 
theme . 

Riess: And you admire this? 

Stewart: Not tremendously, no. Obviously there have been some 
great works done that way. 

Riess: You did say in the beginning that that was what you 
did enjoy about writing. Each thing was discrete. 









Stewart : 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 

It was. 

So your regret must not be too Intense I 

No, no. My regret Is not Intense. In fact, I wouldn't 
say It's a regret at all. As I said, It's a weakness 
in the picture. Again, "I have paid my price...." 

I see. That's your critical self that's looking. 

Well, perhaps I'm looking from other people's point 
of view more than that, because it's very hard for a 
reader to follow me all the way through. I lose them 

A lot of your fan mail is people discovering that "you 
are the same George Stewart who wrote..." 

That's amusing, pleasing, as a matter of fact, 
being all sorts of things. Most people do. 

I like 

One of the writers interviewed (Simenon) said that he 
wrote essentially for himself and to live through 
the excitement of the writing. If nobody ever read 
the book it wouldn't matter. 

Yes. Well, there are all kinds of people. 
You write books for people to read. 

Yes. I don't think I would be much interested in 
writing them merely for myself. And I don't quite 
see how he writes a book without knowing how it's 
going to turn out. It seems to me that he's cheating 
himself in there somewhere. 

Shall I go on with this, or is It annoying to have 
all these quotes? 

Oh, go ahead. I'm interested in seeing what you have, 

Well, Cowley talked about the tricks to start off 
work, pencil sharpening, walking, reading the Bible 
[laughter]. I know you sharpen pencils. Do you have 
other kinds of things to get the motor going? 

I didn't have any of that, actually. (You don't use 
pencils for dictating.) I Just sat down and started. 
I guess sitting down was the preparation [laughing]. 



Stewart : 


Stewart : 

Stewart: Even lying down. I like to dictate lying down, or 
at least reclining, like this. I find it easier, 
didn't need to go through any of those things. I 
always started out right away on the novel. Self- 

Again, it was partly the fact that writing was 
always a kind of escape for me, because I had so 
much university work to do. Writing was a way of 
getting away from it. 

These people felt that a lot is luck. If they don't 
do the right things, the luck won't come. 

Do some of them have that idea? 

Truman Capote sounded, like he was under some sort of 
mounting apprehension, that If he didn't have his 
desk arranged Just so, etc... 

Yes, he might well be. I think probably a good many 
writers have little quirks like that. C. S. Forester, 
for instance. He wrote on the same kind of paper, 
lined paper, every time. He was the kind who "hated 
to write." At least he always said he did. I'm 
never quite sure about people like that. But he was 
a thoroughly professional writer. Absolutely 
professional. The way he fooled himself was he'd 
have this paper, the same size always, the same number 
of lines, and he had to fill a certain number of pages 
every day. Then he wouldn't do any more. He'd come 
to the end of a page, in the middle of a sentence, 
and stop right there. He didn't allow any paragraphs. 
He would put a sign in for a paragraph, not a space, 
so that it didn't make any difference. He found that 
otherwise he cheated on paragraphs. He would put in 
too many paragraphs. That got to be a kind of fetish 
I suppose. That was the way he worked it. 

Hemingway, after one of his accidents, where there 
was a possibility he would lose the use of his arm, 
didn't think he'd be able to write any more, because 
for him it was such a manual activity. 

I don't think that would apply to me. I always like 
to have as little barrier as possible between myself 
and what was on the page. The way I could get it 
there with the least expenditure of time and energy 
was what I wanted. 




Riess: What about the idea of the "demon" that's in charge, 
and about people who felt that they were sort of a 

Stewart: Well, I don't think I would go for that. But of 
course, as I say, it's always a question of what 
makes you write at all. 

Riess: If you hadn't written, what would you have done that 
would have used that same part of you that writes? 

Stewart: I'd have done research. 


[Apropos of comments on Paris Review interview with 
Thornton Wilder] 

Stewart: I was writing this chapter about my high school time, 
when I played on the tennis team. This is written 
up in the high school annual, you know the kind of 
thing they have, that little thing about the tennis 
season. It turns out, as I remember very well, I 
went to a tournament at the Thatcher School. After 
beating one man, I was eliminated by the second man 
to come up I wasn't a very good player and his name 
was Wilder. That was undoubtedly Thornton Wilder, 
who was at Thatcher School at that time. I haven't 
checked up to see whether it possibly could have been 
another Wilder, but I don't think it was. That's 
quite a nice little story, at least it amused me. 

His name Just happened to be preserved in this 
annual. Obviously I wouldn't have remember it. I 
had no reason to remember his name way back then. 
It tickles me, because there's a literary contact! 
That's why I put that in my autobiography, [laughter] 

I like Wilder 's work very much, too. He has also 
the quality I have had of not writing about the same 
things. His collected works don't make any kind of 
unification at all, as far as I can see. 


INTERVIEW V, Bret Harte. Ordeal by Hunger. John 
Phoenix, East of the Giants. Doctor's Oral. Take Your 
Bible in Your Hand. Storm; some comments about 
publishers interspersed. (Recorded September 28, 1971) 

Riess: I read the latest two chapters of your autobiography 
and in them you check mark a couple of questions. 

Stewart: Yes, places where I hadn't really got finished, or 
hadn't checked something out. 

Riess: You put a question mark next to the comment, "Stewart 
as second man is a sure and steady player, while not 
at all spectacular." 

Stewart: Yes, I Just wanted to check the reference. I didn't 
have it with me when I was dictating that, and I just 
put that in as I remembered it. So that's Just to 
check a reference. 

Riess: Do you think that was a pretty intuitive remark of 
whoever the editor was, of that yearbook? 

Stewart: No, I don't know if it was. I had probably written 
that myself! [laughter] You know the way student 
things are written up? I don't really know, but I 
have a suspicion I may have written that, or given 
the idea at least. It's the picture I might have 
presented of myself. 

Riess: You suggested going through all of your work and 

talking about what you were trying to do. Are you 
ready to start on that? 

Stewart: Yes, I might as well say something about that, if 
you think that's a good idea. 


Stewart: It will take me quite a while, probably, although 
I'll talk pretty fast and not too much in detail. 
I'll pass over my thesis and the little book I did 
on versification. The Bret Harte book I think you'd 
call my first book. I'd worked several years getting 
material on that, and it went into shape pretty 
easily. That was a period that was going in for 
biography. Strachey had popularized biography as a 
form of writing in the twenties. 

There was a type of biography into which mine 
falls to some extent. I don't mean the debunking kind 
particularly. That was another pattern of the time, 
the debunking biography, in which there were no more 
heroes left. I didn't take a hero apart, but at least 
I tried to give him a place as a human being. I think 
I did that too. 

I wrote the book mostly in Prance, the year we 
were there. I wrote it in longhand, in pencil, the 
first draft of it. It gave me no particular trouble, 
I might say. Before I left the United States I had 
read several biographies with the idea of seeing how 
people handled them, what you could do, and what you 
couldn't do. I had no particular difficulty. I kept 
a chronological development, which I think is the 
right thing to keep if you possibly can when you're 
writing, because it gives you a pattern. It gives 
a natural pattern, because reading itself follows 
ahead on a line, and chronology does the same thing. 
It's the easiest of all structures and I think the 
most effective. 

Of course chronology can be mired up a great 
deal, and complicated, but I think the simpler form 
has a lot of it. 

Riess: You're talking about biography? 

Stewart: No, novels too, as far as that's concerned. On the 
whole, I think the Bret Harte biography came out all 
right. It had very good reviews. I think it surprised 
a lot of people that I was able to do so well. That 
was my first book, although I was not so very young 
when I wrote it. I was about 35. You see, I didn't 
get off to a particularly young start. I've done a 
lot of writing, but it's come late. 


Stewart: I read some of the book a while ago. I do that 
every now and then with my books, get started on 
them for some reason or other and re-read parts of 
them. Usually I'm rather pleased that they read as 
well as they do. That one also. That one's not 
badly written, and not badly constructed, either. 
I think it shows a good deal of maturity of mind, 
really, to be able to treat a man like that sympathet 
ically, a man who had been attacked very badly, and 
had certain weaknesses of character, no question about 
that. But still, I think I hit the line pretty well 
between heroism and anti -heroism. I think I showed 
him as a human being, which of course he was. 

Riess: Why did you pick him? Did you write it because you 
wished to change the image somewhat? 

Stewart: No, not particularly. I should say it was largely, 
I suppose, academic opportunism, to use that term, 
[laughing] After all, you want to write something. 
I had done a lot of work on the California background, 
and I had planned on doing a very big Job on a kind 
of social-cultural history of the Gold Rush period. 
That seemed to be getting too big for me, and taking 
me too far away, so I finally scrapped that and saved 
Bret Harte out of it. 

I'd written an article on Bret Harte a long time 
before that, so I had worked into him that way. It 
seemed an interesting thing to work on, and not too 
big. It could be handled. And he was a man who 
needed doing; there was no biography of him that was 
good, and hasn't been one since mine. I've held the 
field so far. That is largely because nobody is much 
interested in Bret Harte any more. 

If you have any question, you Just I don't like 
to stop and say "question, please" or anything, 

Riess: When you say that you had gotten "too far away" in 
the other writing project, what do you mean? 

Stewart: It was too big a Job, and I Just didn't want to spend 
all my life doing that particular Job especially 
because it was rather peripheral to literature. 

Riess: How does the phrase "publish or perish" fit into this? 


Stewart: Oh yes. Yes, that had something to do with it. 
Although that phrase Is not so much an absolute. 
Quite a few people have neither published nor 
perished when you come right down to it. 

Riess: When the reviews came in, they were very favorable. 

Stewart: They were very good, yes. Extremely good. They 

surprised me very much as a matter of fact how much 
attention the book got, and how good the reviews 
were. Of course my bad luck held. I hit the very 
worst of the depression, when the book came out; it 
sold very little. The publishers wanted to renege 
on the contract at the last moment, they were so close 
to being broke apparently. I insisted on going ahead 
with the contract, because after all it meant a great 
deal to me to get the book out. 

Riess: You were a good businessman in these ventures, it 
seems to me. 

Stewart: No, I don't think so, particularly. 

Riess: It didn't seem like you gave your publishers any 
quarter, in your letters. 

Stewart: Are you referring to a particular letter? 

Riess: Not any particular letter, but you were dealing pretty 
strongly for yourself and at times when I might 
imagine your saying, "Oh well, let so and so take 
care of it," you were always involved. 

Stewart: Well, I wouldn't say I was particularly a good 

businessman in dealing with publishers. I had several 
fights. I think any author does. 

Riess: But you fought the fights. Isn't it easier Just to 
give in? 

Stewart: Well, it might be. That isn't necessarily good 

business though. It might be better business to go 
ahead and play it the other way. 

Riess: The involvement with publishers is Interesting. I'm 
thinking of some authors' relations with Maxwell 
Perkins and Soribners. 


Stewart: Did I tell you about my relationship with Maxwell 

Riess: No. I know from your letters he was interested in 

Stewart: Yes, in about 1938, '39. That's an interesting 

I think this relationship between author and 
publisher has changed very much with time. I don't 
think there is such a thing much any more. Of course 
I'm not active enough in writing to know too much 
about it. But I think it's almost disappeared. I 
think it probably was even stronger before my time. 

Perkins was one of the famous examples. In 
fact, I'd call him an editor more than a publisher. 
There's a difference there. Of course he must have 
been very powerful with the publishers too. I think 
that editorship is largely dead now too. They don't 
have the same kind of relationship with their authors, 
I should Judge. Of course if a man's making a lot 
of money, they'll pay much more attention to him than 
they will to the ordinary person. I think there's 
much less taking a young author and bringing him 
along than there used to be. 

Perkins got interested in my first novel, East 
of the Giants. He wanted to take me over, almost 
literally. I wasn't under contract to any publisher. 
In fact he sent a man all the way out here from New 
York, which impressed me no end, in those days! I 
can't remember the man's name, but I think he's still 
with Scrlbners. He must be a very senior man by now. 
In fact, he must be retired. 

Anyway, he came all the way out to see me, just 
trying to get me to go in with them. I would work 
with Perkins and then he would bring me along. If 
I'd been a good businessman that's what I would have 
done. That's exactly a business relationship. He 
would have probably handled it all right. He wanted 
me to write Western novels, like East of the Giants, 
Western novels at the literary level. And that was 
a very smart thing to do probably, probably have been 
a lot of money in that. I could have written a whole 
series, and had my life work laid out for me. I 


Stewart: would have been Maxwell Perkins* boy, and he would 
have brought me along. He would undoubtedly have 
taught me a lot. It might have been quite an 

Riess: Taught you a lot how? 

Stewart: Taught me how to write Western novels. That was 

his forte, you see, getting somebody like that who 
was fairly young and who had possibilities. 

Riess: I think of people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, 
prlma donnas, being handled by Perkins. 

Stewart: I don't know how he handled them. You might say he 
didn't make a very good Job with either of them, 
because they both were very temperamental writers. 
Fitzgerald particularly went to pieces, you see. He 
went out of the picture. He didn't live very long. 
He threw himself away pretty much. 

I don't know whether that's what Perkins had in 
mind or not. I rejected this in high dudgeon. I 
went to see him when I was in New York later and had 
a very nice talk with him. I told him I thought that 
was a bad idea to do that sort of thing, and he said, 
"Let's not talk about that." So we had a nice talk 
about other things. I was very glad to have met him. 
At that time, you see, I was getting started on Storm, 
and while it might be called a Western novel in some 
respects, it is something rather different on the 
whole. I didn't want to stop working on that. 

I couldn't have done it anyway. I just couldn't 
have that relationship to a man. If I had been a 
very young man, I might have done it. After all, it 
wouldn't mean that I tied, up for the rest of my life 
necessarily. If I had been very young and inexperienced 
but I'd written say one good book, it might have been 
a good thing to do. Because a relationship with an 
older man who really knew the business would have 
been very well, profitable in money and useful to 
the development of whatever you had in you. But that 
never happened. 

Another piece of bad luck that I had, that was 
really, I think, major bad luck 



Riess: Why do you say another? You're actually considering 
that your decision 

Stewart: No, I guess I shouldn't say that. (I was thinking 

about bad luck. I raised the question I had bad luck 
in my autobiography, bad luck professionally speaking. 
I was referring to that, not to the Perkins business.) 

Now I can't think what the bad luck was that I 
had! What I was talking about. I don't very often 
have a lapse like that, but I can't think of it right 
now. I'll go on to something else. 

Well, I know now. That was the fact you see, 
I was going to work on Ordeal by Hunger which is 
another book I can take up. That was definitely a 
revolt against the University, because I had done 
quite a lot of work, publication of all sorts, and I 
hadn't gotten a promotion. I was still assistant 
professor. And I was getting pretty sore. I figured, 
well, what's the difference. There's no use publishing 
any more scholarly works. I might as well do something 
that would be fun to do. Here's a great story. I 
knew enough about it, as a matter of fact I thought it 
would be a much easier Job than it was, because I 
thought the material had all been pretty well collected, 
in a previous book or two, and that I could work out 
from that. 

But I found that was wrong. I had to do the work 
really from the bottom up, which now I would know I 
would have to do, but then I thought I could do it in 
an easier way. Anyway, I did the work, I collected 
the material. That book came out very well too. 
That's been a quite well -sustained book ever since. 
It's been in print most of that time (first published 
in 1936), and that's pretty hard to do. Where I had 
my bad luck was in this. I thought I should work 
with an agent, so I did. I tied up with a good agent, 
Brandt and Brandt. They're still going. They've been 
leading agents for many years. I was quite pleased 
they wanted to take the book. 

Well, they sent it around, to six different 
publishers, all of whom turned it down. And they 
were good publishers. That's very discouraging when 
that happens. I couldn't see why, because I thought 

Stewart: it was a safe book at least. I didn't see how a 

publisher could help but make some money out of it, 
but they couldn't see it that way. Of course the 
depression was on. 

So the agents sent it back to me. I sent it 
out to Henry Holt. The first publisher I sent it to 
took it, which has made me very sour on agents ever 
since. If they couldn't do better than that... 

Where I had the back luck was really in this, 
that neither the agents nor I sent that book to 
Alfred Knopf. It was a book made to order for Alfred 
Knopf. He told me later he would have been very glad 
to take it. In my period, Knopf has been about the 
greatest publisher there is. If I could have tied 
up with Knopf at that time, I think it would have been 
a very fine relationship. He's a difficult character, 
you know, but he's a great publisher. He could 
respect good writing, in a way that very few people 
can. He could maintain a literary standard as very 
few people have ever done in this country. 

Well, they didn't send it to him. I don't know 
why. They might have disliked him personally. I 
think it sometimes works that way. 

Riess: Would he have directed you in the way that Perkins 
might have? 

Stewart: No, I don't think, at all. I think he would have 
been very good for general advice and that sort of 
thing. I don't think he would have tried to direct 
an author too much. That would be my feeling. I've 
met him several times. He can be a disagreeable man, 
but a great publisher. Of course his wife was a great 
character too, you know. She's dead now. She was 
probably as great a publisher as he was. 

Riess: Was she a publisher in her own right? 

Stewart: No, her name wasn't on the masthead anywhere, I don't 
believe, but everybody knew about her in the book 

Riess: When you talk about him being a great publisher, that 
means a great discoverer, or something? 


Stewart: Well, that's part of it, certainly, and maybe being 
a man of high ideals who at the same time can keep 
going. I mean, after all, a publisher's got to keep 
going. He's got to make money or he's dead. There's 
no use being impractical about this thing. Knopf 
can do that. He can do both sides. 

For instance, he brought up the standard of the 
physical nature of the book tremendously in this 
country, for one thing. That shows you compare what 
a book looked like before, say, 1920, with what it 
gradually came to look like. Beautifully designed 
books, well put together. I think there is more owed 
to Alfred Knopf than anybody else for that. But I 
missed that connection. 

Riess: Books got nicer. Why? 

Stewart: I think it ( was perhaps Knopf's realization that after 
all a good-looking well-designed book doesn't cost 
much more than a sloppy book. All you have to do 
is get an intelligent designer working on it. What 
you pay the designer isn't a very big item in bringing 
a book out. 

Riess: When you realized that you had missed the boat on 
that, was it possible to get back with him? 

Stewart: Well, no. It was quite a while before I realized 
that. And I didn't know too much about the whole 
set-up in those days, or I would have sent the book 
to him at that time. No, it was quite a while, and 
I had gone too far in other directions to switch 
arfcund. I may be idealizing that situation, but 
that's the way it seems to me. 

Riess: Did you use original sources, and interview people, 
for the Bret Harte book? 

Stewart: Many original sources and a few people. His sister 
was still living, living in Berkeley as a matter of 
fact. She was a lovely old lady. I didn't get much 
out of her. She gave me a diary, though, which I 
made use of, very important use of. And I interviewed 
Ina Goolbrith, the poet. I didn't get much out of 
her either. 

I met his daughter once, but that was after I'd 
written the biography. I didn't particularly like to 



Stewart: team up with the family. Unless you do a real family 
biography, my instinct is to keep away from the 
family. I think that's a good instinct. 

Riess: How about in Ordeal by Hunger? 

Stewart: I didn't get any interviews there. There was only 
one survivor left, and again that's a kind of a 
family matter, and if you go to somebody like that, 
sometimes what they tell you you know isn't right, 
but you can't very well dispute them. I kept away 
from the families too. I missed out on some little 
things there, but I kept my freedom of action, which 
is very important in that story, because each family 
had its own version of it afterward, you know, that was 
sort of entrenched. If you got what a granddaughter 
was telling you, why, you wouldn't know what you had. 
I missed out on some small documents. 

There's been quite a bit come to light on the 
Donner Party since I worked on it, but I've incorporated 
most of that in my revised edition. 

Riess: You said you thought you would be able to find most 
of the material in published work. Was there very 
much on the actual trails and maps of routes, or was 
that what you had to develop yourself? 

Stewart: I developed most of that myself. I did go over a lot 
of that territory on foot, so I knew about where they 
went, and where they could go and where they couldn't. 

Yes. I worked out practically all of that, the 
geographical background. Of course that's where I got 
interested in the trail. I've still got that interest. 

I actually located a couple of the old trees up 
there which were cut in the snow and they were still 
standing. They're still up there, by the way. I 
saved them, finally, because the road was re-located 
and here were these old stumps standing right beside 
the highway. It would be Just a matter of time before 
somebody went and knocked them over, Just for fun. So 
I told the Donner Park people they ought to go out 
and retrieve these stumps, because they're the size 
you could get on a truck with a few men lifting them. 
They've got them up there in the museum now. I don't 
think they have them on exhibition yet, but they've 


Stewart: r;ot them. And that's quite a find to have. These 

were cut off about ten feet high, about when the snow 
was deepest. They came from the Prosser Creek camp. 

My destiny tied me up to Dormer Pass. I kept 
going back to that for one thing after another. 
Finally they had a ceremony up there when they were 
dedicating the new museum, and they gave me Donner 
Pass! They decided to give me Donner Pass, that 
would be my property from now on. [laughter] But 
I said it would Just get me on the tax rolls, I 
wouldn't take it. They said, "Well, we'll grant it 
tax free." I said, "Then I'll take it." 

I found out they hadn't given me anything, because 
Donner Pass is really a hole in the wall. What did I 
get? Just what? Something where nothing was. 

Riess: How about the "germ of the idea" on Ordeal ? 

Stewart: A long time back, about 1920, I read McGlasham's book 
on the Donner Party. It was a good story, but badly 
told. I was interested ever since that. Of course 
I didn't think of myself as a historian. It wasn't 
until I branched out and got away from the work in 
literature a little and, as I told you, got the feeling 
that I might as well do something in another line since 
I'd done enough in that one line already. 

One thing about that book that most people don't 
realize is just what a complicated story it is. It's 
a much more complicated story than you'd ever try to 
do in a novel, because you've got as many as five or 
six strands running parallel, and you have to keep 
shifting back from one to another, or carrying one 
through that's the most difficult thing there is to 
write, you know. When things are happening at the 
same time, and you have to keep the whole thing in 
the reader's mind some way or another. That called 
for a terrific amount of work. 

Riess: How did you plot that before you wrote it? 
Stewart: I drew lines on paper. 
Riess: You really plotted it? 

Stewart: Oh yes, sort of figuring how to get back, onto the 
other, how to bridge something across, and work the 


Stewart: reader's mind around until he gets to thinking about 
the other thing, and then In the next chapter you're 
back on to another thing, you know, but you've got 
him already thinking about it. 

Riess: It sounds like you're talking about keeping the 

reader's attention in a way that wouldn't be usual 
in nonf lotion. 

Stewart: That's all right in nonf let ion. I don't see any 

reason why you shouldn't keep the reader's attention 
in nonf lotion, [laughing] 

Riess: It seems as if in nonf lotion you would assume that 
the reader would work harder than In fiction. 

Stewart: Well, probably he does, but even so you oan't count 

on him working very hard. I don't see why you should 
make him work hard anyway, if you can do the work 

Riess: When you realized what a difficult thing it was going 
to be, did you at any point feel like, "Well, let's 
scrap the idea." 

Stewart: No, I never thought of it that way. I knew where the 
material was by that time. Well, that was an 
interesting thing to do. 

Riess: Did you get much editing help on that from your 

Stewart: Holt published that and I don't think there was any 
editing at all. 

Riess: At the point at which you would read something aloud, 
for instance to your wife or to yourself, were there 
apt to be any changes happening then? 

Stewart: Oh yes, yes, if there was something that didn't go 
right, and if I read it to myself I would fix it 
right there. If I was reading to somebody else, I 
might just mark it in the margin and. go on. 

Riess: Did you have really beautiful sentences that would 

occur to you that you would put down, or did beautiful 
sentences develop slowly? 






Oh, I think that lying In bed at night, why you may 
write up something, might do a little writing. I 
don f t think of beautiful sentences In Isolation 
though. I think the whole thing has to tie In. A 
sentence Is beautiful because it stands In relation 
ship to other things. You want to watch that kind 
of thing that's what lead you Into purple passages, 
when you start thinking of some particular sentence. 

I know when I was writing my first novel, East 
of the Giants. I used to lie in bed at night and 
really be all excited because I was thinking about 
how things would go, what I could do. Sometimes a 
particular word. And every now and then, of course, 
you do get a particular sentence or idea. Sometimes 
it works. I can't think of an example right now, but 
I know I have had that sort of thing. 

Another funny thing is when you get to quoting 
yourself in later books. That's a danger, of course, 
that you start imitating yourself. I wanted to use 
this quotation in California Trail, and it was a fine 
quotation. I could quote it all right and I knew it 
was in one of my books somewhere, [laughing] I had 
to hunt all around before I could find it. I finally 
found it in Fire. "All this, too, was part of the 

price of the taking-over of the land." 
sentence. That's got rhythm too.* 

It's a nice 

One great test of whether you're writing purple, 
or whether you're not, is whether you're saying some 
thing, whether you're saying exactly what you want. 
If you find you're throwing in adjectives or something 
and you're not really saying anything then you've got 
to watch out. That's when you're getting bad. 

But you know, that sentence I Just quoted is very 
exactly worded. It doesn't say it was the price. It 
was "part of the price." That kind of thing, you see, 
that says something quite exactly. 

What was the response of the public to Ordeal? Who 

were you writing for at this point? Who was your public? 

*But be sure that you keep the hyphen in "taking-over." 
It makes a big difference. [G.S.] 


Stewart: Well, my public has always been the intelligent lay 
person, I suppose you could say. My books are not 
written for specialists. Don't you think that 
describes pretty much what my books are written for? 

Riess: Ordeal by Hunger wasn't necessarily for people who 
were Just getting interested in California and 
California things? 

Stewart: Well, it's partly that, of course. Any book has an 
area of specialization. A book about young people 
will sell more to young people than it will to older 
people. That doesn't mean it's really exclusively 
for young people. Any book has a certain degree of 

For instance, Ordeal by Hunger sells well every 
year in Reno. I suppose mostly to tourists going 
through. The jobber up there in Reno was in tears 
when it wasn't in print. He wrote to the publisher 
and told him it would sell, I think, 30,000 copies 
a year. That's a lot of books, paperbacks of course. 

Rless: After Ordeal came your decision to do the novel. 

Stewart: Well, we might mention John Phoenix in there. He 
gets passed over too much". That was a mistake in 
some ways, of course, but I'd done a biography, and 
I felt, "I've done a biography, I'd like to do another." 
I was interested in Phoenix for a long time. I 
thought he wrote pretty funny, humorous stuff about 
California. The way it was a mistake is it's a 
mistake always to follow up a thing you've done, 
really, with something that's the same. I think, 
that's my general philosophy. 

And then also, Phoenix was not a man of enough 
importance. It's just about as much work to write a 
biography of an unimportant man as it is with a big 
man, and you're wasting your time pretty much. I was, 
on him. Although it's a good book. It's a readable 
book. It certainly hasn't ever sold very much, 
although it's back in print now. Everything's in 
print now, practically, so that doesn't mean so much. 

And then I got magnificent family support on 
that. They sent me all the -family papers, which were 
extraordinary, including a whole album of drawings 
he made. That was fun to work at. But that's the 



Stewart: only time I ever got close to getting in trouble with 
a family. That's always a danger, but it blew over. 
It wasn't any real trouble. There was one sentence 
in the book that they objected to. Fortunately, I 
guess it was fortunately, the publisher changed it 
without even telling me. It didn't make any great 
difference. That is a good little book. It's not 
a book I'm ashamed of at all, although it wasn't very 
earth-shaking in its topic. 

Then I did decide to write the novel. People 
asked me why I wrote a novel, but after all, it's 
a great American ambition. Everybody wants to write 
a novel, and so I did too. I already knew something 
about early California, because I'd been interested 
in that it's a very colorful era, and that was a 
period of historical novels. Historical novels are 
always popular, but they're more popular at some 
times. This was the period of Anthony Adverse and 
Gone With the Wind. And the influence of those books 
is in there of course, to some extent. It was, in a 
sense, a period piece. 

I learned a lot out of writing East of the Giants. 
It came out very well. I had learned about point of 
view, and about continuity and things like that from 
working on books I had already done, particularly 
Ordeal by Hunger. So I didn't have much trouble with 
writing a novel. My imagination worked tremendously 
well on that, I suppose because it was my first novel, 
and I was eager. 

The book worked all right. Structurally, the 
novel is in three books. I used the device of inter- 
chapters, which I've used a lot, starting with Ordeal 
by Hunger. It trademarks my work, almost. I don't 
know any older writer who even uses the term. I 
think maybe I invented the term. So East of the 
Giants was three books. 

The books were in a comparatively brief period 
of time; then the inter-chapters filled in the gaps. 
The first book began in 1837, the second, in 18&J-, 
and the third in 1856. 


You see, you have the problem of scene and 
summary in writing almost anything. There are certain 
places you have to develop in detail: they are your 
scenes. And of course, if you can't write good scenes, 




Stewart: you can't write a good novel. You've got to come 

to grips with your material at some point or other. 

I always used, to teach that, about scene 
flinching. It's a curious phenomenon. You'll find 
it time and again. Inexperienced writers will work 
up to a big scene, and then they won't write it! They 
flinch. They realize it's going to be hard to write, 
and subconsciously they don't want to write it. And 
of course that ruins your book. When you get up to 
a big scene, you've got to tackle it, you've got to 
do it. 

Writing good summary is difficult too. But I 
solved the problem somewhat mechanically, I grant 
you, in East of the Giants, because I wasn't too 
skilled. That is a little stiff. Each chapter is 
written from one person's point of view, though the 
same person may have more than one chapter. Each 
chapter is a scene, really. That is, it means a very 
restricted time basis, often Just a matter of a few 
hours, and sometimes a few days, but just about like 

It's built up around the heroine, and she has 
about half the scenes, that is, chapters. And of 
course her two husbands, because she's married twice, 
have chapters. Once or twice her children have 
chapters, and other times incidental characters, who 
give a different point of view on the main characters. 
It worked out pretty well. 

Curiously Josephine Miles was a great admirer 
of that book. It doesn't seem like her book, somehow 
or other, but she always liked it. And some of the 
inter- chapters are very good. I've got an inter- 
chapter in there, which, if I ever collected my 
anthology, I'd certainly take. It's one of the best 
things I ever did. 

Bless: Tell me which. 

Stewart: Well, it's the one between the first and second books. 
It's the rhythm of the year at the ranch where she 
lived. "This was the cycle of the year at Rancho 


Stewart: Amarillo," I think it reads, and Just goes through 
the year.* I haven't road it in a long time, but I 
think it's very Rood. 

Riess: Your heroine, Judith, was much admired by readers. 

Stewart: I don't know where she came from particularly. My 
wife thinks she's got a lot of my mother in her. 
That may well be. I didn't have anybody really 
definitely in mind, though I never have, on any major 
character in my books. 

Hiess: She changed so and grew, in the book. 

Stewart: Well, she grew against a background, too. The back 
ground changed and she changed, partly from maturity, 
and partly because she had to change to adjust to new 
situations, as people had to in that generation. 

Riess: Did you work with a chronological outline there? 

Stewart: Well, I had some kind of outline, yes. I knew pretty 
well where I was going. The third part gave me some 
trouble. The first two parts ran beautifully from 
the original impulse. The third part gave me some 
trouble to develop. 

Riess: The third part being the last part. You did, in 

speaking of Earth Abides say that the beginning and 
the end are usually 

*"This was the cycle of the year at Rancho Amarillo. 
By July, after killing-time, the grass was dry and 
brown. That was a good time to dry adobe bricks in 
the sun and to build, for the cattle needed little 
care. By August the cattle were eating the brown 
grass close down to the ground, and were getting thin. 
The creek shrank to a series of muddy water-holes. 
In September came hot, dazzling, sunny weather, with 
sweeping dry winds from the north, making the lips 
crack and wearing the nerves thin too. That was a 
dangerous time, and there might be quarrels and 
knifings among the vaqueros. By now the hides were 
cured, and great high-loaded bullock-carts creaked 
slowly off toward the boat-landing on the bay-shore; 
later they would return with the winter supplies, 
corn and beans, chiles and onions, from San Jose. 

Stewart: They're usually easier, yes. But It wasn't that way 
In that particular book. Well, I wouldn't say the 
third book gave me very great difficulty. You see, 
it's the breakdown of the primitive paradise. I 
didn't think of it in terms as self-conscious as 
that, but that's pretty much what it is. That 
required a readjustment. You had to bring in evil 
in the last part. There wasn't much real evil in 
the first part. 

Riess: After East of the Giants, you were a "novelist." 
How were you received around campus? You told in 
the autobiography about being carried on the 
shoulders of the crowd in high school. Now were 
you back up on the shoulders? 

Stewart: Yes, I think that partly describes it, all right. 

There was a good deal of that, but it came to me by 
steps. I got quite a good deal out of Bret Harte 
that way. And I got quite a good deal out of Ordeal 
by Hunger. It seemed to move on to another step. 
And then East of the Giants was another step. And 
then I suppose Storm was the final step. Simplifying 
the matter. But that's about the way it went, I 

Riess: If there had been a real lack of Interest in you as 
a writer, would you have been motivated to go on 

"In October or November came the first good rain. 
The tension of the dry weather eased and you slept 
better. Within two weeks afterwards you would look 
out one morning and see, faint and delicate, the first 
green of the new grass. In December and on until 
March came the great storms, sweeping in over the 
southern hills beneath immeasurable thickness of murky 
gray cloud, low-lying and wind-driven. The creek rose 
till you could hear it roaring in the night. Between 
the great storms came fine weeks of sunny weather, 
warm in the day, crisp cold at night. Once in a while 
you would look out in the morning to see the whole 
valley aglitter like silver with frost, and the 
cattle standing out darkly, steaming in the newly 
risen sun. With the cold and the wet, and the new 
grass not yet having much nourishment, the cattle 
were still thinner." 



Stewart: I don't know. I think it would have been doubtful, 
yes. Because I think that what psychologists some 
times term as feedback is very important to a writer, 
as I've already mentioned. I think that lack of it 
leads many writers into frustration. They start out 
and they don't get anything coming back in, and then 
they Just... of course in the first place they almost 
immediately hit a very bad problem about publishing. 
If they can't get some kind of reaction from somebody, 
then pretty soon they develop the idea that they're 
misunderstood geniuses and so forth, and that's bad. 

I knew one man. I think he's dead now. He wrote 
nine novels and piled them up one after the other. 
He had published a novel way back about 1925, which 
was fairly successful. Then he couldn't ever hit it. 
Nine different novels, and he didn't r>ubllsh any of 
them. Then finally some publisher took another one 
or two of them years later. But that was all he ever 
did. I don't know how many more novels he's written 
in his time. But that's a very curious kind of person. 
And he was a very curious kind of person. I think 
writing novels that way would be too much for me. 

Riess: Yes. That's like Simenon's need to write, and 
experience his own life through writing. 

Stewart: Well, I can conceive that taking place, but it's 
certainly not very common. 

I think there has to be some kind of compromise 
on this. I think if you start writing entirely for 
other people that's pretty bad too. That gives you 
the hack writer, who can be a skillful writer, but I 
think that's not good either. You have to have some 
kind of compromise between writing to please yourself 
and writing for an audience. 

Riess: By then, on campus, was It, "There goes George 
Stewart, the novelist 11 ? 

Stewart: Oh, I wasn't conscious of that very much. I suppose 
there was some of that. Every now and then I would 
meet somebody who said, "Oh, I took a class from you 
because I read your books" and so forth. But I was 
never very conscious of that. Berkeley is a very 



Stewart: sophisticated place. We've had a lot of books 

published around Berkeley. They don't go into swoons 
about a writer too easily. 

You get quiet pieces of appreciation which are 
worth more to you than the other thing. I don't know 
whether you knew the Tolmans or not. Kathleen Tolman 
said that reading East of the Giants opened up a whole 
world for her. That's nice to get from a very fine 
person you've known for years, somebody like that. 
That's nice. 

Riess: Did you ever develop a character again as you did in 
East of the Giants? 

Stewart: Well, yes. I think I did some other good characters. 
Of course Storm and Fire don't go in for human 
characters particularly, but I think that I've got 
some good characters in Earth Abides. People generally 
recognize those. There are good characters in the 
Years of the City too, but nobody ever reads that, so 
nobody knows about that. I think the Pounder in there 
is a very good character. That again breaks up that's 
four different periods, you see, connected through 
the family chronologically, so in a sense you don't 
get the same chance to there are four main characters. 
Well, let's go on chronologically before we get into 

Riess: How did you get started on Doctor's Oral? 

Stewart: In a way, that was a kind of in-between book. It was 
down in Mexico, and I wrote East of the Giants so fast 
I got finished with it about March and we were all 
fixed up to stay down in Mexico until about May, and 
here was all this nice time available down there with 
nothing to fill me up particularly. I had this idea, 
kind of an obvious thing oh, I don't know whether 
it's obvious or not, nobody else has done it, I think 
the idea of a contest, a struggle, in an examination. 
Have you read that one? 

Riess: Yes, I have. 

Stewart: Well there, you see, I went at the question of scene 
differently. That's all handled in scenes. The 

whole thing takes place in about eighteen hours, 
can run through it, and it's all in scene. 



Riess: Scene means, then, a lot of dialog. 

Stewart: Yes, a lot of dialog, and the thing done in detail. 
It might be put on the stage. Of course the drama 
is all done in scene. It has to be. And the great 
difficulty with stage drame is getting these 
transitions in. They have to use all sorts of devices 
to let the audience know what happened between this 
scene and that scene. In the novel you have the 
advantage of working both ways. So, by scene, you 
mean something which could be put on the stage without 
too much difficulty. 

As a matter of fact, two people have dramatized 
Doctor's Oral. I've got one of their versions in the 
Bancroft collection. 

Riess: "The Gods and Joe Grantland. 11 
Stewart: Yes. It wasn't a good Job at all. 

Riess: So the theme, when I asked you where you had gotten 
that idea, somehow I didn't expect you to define the 
idea as the contest. I think a lot of people saw it 
as more the expose. 

Stewart: Yes, they did, and more so than I wanted. Of course 
the whole idea of a Ph.D. examination is so fantastic 
to the ordinary person that he doesn't understand what 
it's about anyway. A lot of university life is 
fantastic to people like Governor Reagan, for instance. 
So they looked upon this as an expose, which I wasn't 
trying to make it, particularly. It's interesting. 
The people who appreciated Doctor's Oral the most, as 
a class, I could really classify them. They were 
people who were in and near a university, but not of 
it. The people who were really in the university, 
faculty people particularly, didn't care too much 
for Doctor's Oral. People who were clear out of the 
university didn't care the slightest for it. They 
didn't know what it was about. 

But the people who had been around universities, 
had maybe done a little teaching, and gone out into 
engineering or something like that, that kind of 
person, they really enjoyed it. It was their book. 




Riess: People who were close to the University, what do you 
think they thought? 

Stewart: I think it probably seemed somewhat shallow to them. 
I don't know. Of course, it's funny, but that was 
considered quite an Immoral book by some people. 
The young couple living in sin. One old lady we knew 
pretty well in Berkeley was very nasty about that, 
that I should write about such a subject. 

Riess: Yes, why did you write such an immoral book? [laughter] 
Stewart: Even in those days, that sort of thing was happening. 

That's kind of corny in some ways. I mean piling 
the thing up all in one day. But that's what 
made the book. I've often thought about how in oral 
examinations, any kind of examination, you don't know 
what the background of the person involved is. All 
sorts of things may be happening, Just as they're 
happening to the people giving the examination too. 
So I think it was all right in that respect. 

I think Joe Grantland was a pretty good character 
too, actually. He's a very common type; at least he 
was in those days. That miserable kind you can't 
either fail or pass with a good heart. Those are the 
ones that bother you, and make life bad for a professor. 

Riess: I have a little summary by some reviewer: "Stewart 
has been around, and I'd like to know how he gets 
away with it. He sees people and they amuse him, and 
a few move him, but not really too deeply." 

Stewart: Well, I don't know about that. I think the book really 
is a kind of comedy. You wouldn't expect in that 
particular book too great depth of moving. Although 
I tried to bring out a little difference in the 
prologue and the epilogue there. Which again, I think, 
are some of the best things I ever wrote. 

Hugh Richmond, a professor in the English depart 
ment now, much younger than I am, used for his epigraph 
in a book he just published what I quoted about "the 
love of knowledge and the knowledge of love."* 

* M Let the love of knowledge be spread abroad," and 
"Let the knowledge of love be spread abroad. " 


HI ess: That was your own quote? 


Stewart : 

I made that one up as far as I know. It seems like 
the obvious thing. You Just know that students 
would translate it that way if they got a chance. 

So, it was, as I say, a kind of in-between book. 
I wrote some of it in Mexico, about half of it, and 
then wrote the rest of it after I got back here. I 
remember looking it over again to see if it was worth 
finishing up, and I decided it was going to be no 
great Job to finish it up. I was getting started to 
work on Storm then anyway, but I figured I could get 
this out of the way, so I did. 

You see, Henry Holt got into a financial Jam, 
and they reorganized. They didn't handle East of the 
Giants very well. That was some more of my bad luck, 
to get into a thing of that sort. 

If you had had good luck, you would have been over 
whelmed! [laughter] 

Wouldn't that have been something I 

They had a new manager come in, and he tried to 
revive East of the Giants. He spent a lot of money 
on it, but it's very difficult to do that. He got 
out a new Jacket, and he spent some money advertising, 
and tried to push it to get it started again. But he 
couldn't get it going again. It sold fairly well; it 
sold better in England than it sold here, and I guess 
it sold better in Italy than it sold in England. I 
don't know. It's had a funny kind of career. It 
has enough of a romantic touch about it, you see, that 
it's a kind of general least common denominator of 
humanity or something. 

Anyway, that was the time Henry Holt almost broke 
up, and I got another agent then. They didn't want 
to give this new book to Holt. Although Doctor's Oral 
wasn't likely to be really a very profitable book, 
Holt would have taken it, largely on the success of 
East of the Giants. I think. (In fact their editor, 
Bill Sloan, came out to see me. Again I was much 
impressed, having a man come out from New York to see 
me about a book. This was Just about the time the 
other fellow did too. ) 


Stewart: Well, Holt would have taken Doctor's Oral and 
given me a good advance on it too, but my agents 
decided it was better not to go into Holt, because 
that company was in a bad situation. They sent it 
to Random House, and Random House took it. That was 
how I got my connection with Random House. They put 
out a very nice little book. Random House did 
beautiful books too. They were an important factor 
in the manufacture of books. But they learned the 
trick from Knopf, I think. The two were pretty close 
in their way of thinking. So it had a good enough 
sale, but didn't do anything very much. It couldn't 
be expected to. I got one of my first really nasty 
reviews out of that one. Did you ever see that 
review? It was in Saturday Review. I think. They 
didn't like it at all. 

That's about all there is to report about that 

Riess: Had there ever been any insider books like it written? 

Stewart: Well, now that's interesting, because there's a man 
named Brace who did a book that I Just read called 
The Department. He taught in Boston University and 
other places as a professor of English and then took 
up writing novels, apparently quite late in life, 
because he's about seventy now. This book called 
The Department has a scene from a doctor's oral in it. 

He had a funny business in that. About the birds, 
All his characters have the names of birds. Which I 
think is not a good practice! But he was obviously 
having a little fun. I've had a few keys like that 
in my books too, but not quite so formalistic as 
this one. They're very unusual birds. I read on 
and I thought, "That's funny." "There's a bird called 
a Fulmar, and one man is named Partridge." Pretty 
soon I became more and more suspicious, and started 
going to the dictionary and looking up some of these 
names. They were all birds. Rare birds, that you 
didn't know about. 

Riess: Well, that's a man who's calling for feedback. 

Stewart: I don't know if he is or not. He's likely to get bad 
feedback on that. It's so artificial. It gets in 
people's way. I'd be willing to bet, though I might 



Stewart: lose, that I'm the first man that's spotted it 
of a cold reader. He'd probably tell his friends 
and they'd pass the word around. I Just bet you 
that almost nobody would pick that out. These two 
friends of ours read it before they passed the book 
on to me, and I told them about this. That was news 
to them. They hadn't the slightest idea. 

Riess: I hope you told the author that you spotted it. 

Stewart: I wrote, "As I read, it seemed to me that your 
department consisted entirely of odd birds." I 
figured if he can't get that, why! I'll probably 
hear from him. 

Another great admirer of Doctor's Oral was 
Jacques Barzun. In fact, he wanted to get it reprinted. 
He thought It was very good for graduate students. He 
was dean then at Columbia. Well, I would have to say 
that some professors have taken it that way. The 
chemistry department here has a copy in their library, 
which they say their graduate students read. 

Riess: As preparation for the experience? 

Stewart: More or less, yes. I don't know whether they do any 
more or not. ' All these things have changed so much 

You didn't ask me what that was based on though, 
what the real background was. Most people try to work 
that as a roman a clef, different characters repre 
senting different people around Berkeley. 

Riess: Yes, when we talked about that it didn't seem to me 
that you were about to come out and give me a one to 

Stewart: No, I certainly am not! For various reasons. In 
the first place, it doesn't work that way. I did 
have a certain background feeling about some of those 
people, but I wouldn't say they were really 
characterized, or there was any attempt to satirize 
people in there. 

Some of those things were real, though. I was 
thinking more of the nature of the examination, the 
"Blessed Damozel" business. And I always thought I 




Stewart: passed my own doctor's oral in the first half minute 
because Professor Krapp asked me that question about 
the Vierhebungstheorie in German, as I've already 
told you. I wish that I'd had a chance to talk about 
that with him some time after I grew up ( so to speak ) , 
but he died quite a long time ago. I had a letter 
then I spotted as being from his son. I wrote and 
asked him, "Was your father George Phillip Krapp?" 
He said he was. It's always nice to make those 

Anyway, after I answered that question I figured 
I'd pretty well passed my oral. At least I figured 
that in retrospect. I didn't figure It at the moment, 
but I thought I was pretty good at that point. Then 
about the middle of the examination, Professor Trent 
had to go to a class and couldn't stay. As he went 
out, I saw him nod at the chairman, [laughing] So 
far so good! I got one vote. 

Riess: It sounds like doctor's orals are not a test of 

knowledge, so much, as a test of sophistication or 
maturity, or sense of humor or character. 

Stewart: Well, it's very hard to say what they are or what 
they ought to be. I think they are a pretty good 
test of knowledge, if they're conducted properly, 
because in a written examination you can always cover 
up, and you can open up allusions that sound as if 
you knew a lot. There's an art to taking any kind of 
examination. That's what I wrote Doctor's Oral about 
really. But you see, in an oral examination, you 
can't get away with that sort of thing. The moment 
you open up on Lucretius or somebody, a professor 
will ask you, "Now tell us about Lucretius. Just 
what do you mean?" If you Just have heard the name 
Lucretius, you're lost. 

Then, you can really cover a tremendous amount 
of territory in an examination very rapidly by the 
oral method. Of course it has its weaknesses, like 
any kind of system. 

I think there's something to the whole idea of 
examinations actually, either written or oral. It 
is a test of character in a sense. I mean, if you 
can't rise to an examination, why, you're not too 
good. You should be able to muster yourself and do 


Riess: In an oral way? Anybody should be able to? 

Stewart: Well, anybody who you'd want to pass for the degree 
should be able to do it, yes. You're going to meet 
crises all through your life, and if you can't meet 
a crisis... And there are people who can't, as far 
as that's concerned. Maybe sometimes it's unjust. 
But if a person is good enough outside the examination, 
then they usually manage to get him through sooner or 

They had failed six people in a row before I 
came up. Did I tell you that? It made it even a 
worse strain, but I figured I had a tradition of 
victory; I had always got through. I'd try it. 

Riess: After Doctor's Oral you wrote, Take Your Bible in 
Your Hand? 

Stewart: That was Just a little thing. The Dictionary of 

American Biography asked me to do a short piece on 
this man (William Henry) Thomes, and I got interested 
in him, and did this little thing. It came out as 
one of these private publications, very beautifully 
printed. Did you ever see it? It's a very nice 

Hiess: Yes. Colt Press. [1939] 

Stewart: That was Jane Grobhorn. It's the sort of thing that 
takes you about three-quarters of an hour to read. 
Again, I spent a great deal more time on that book 
than it really warranted, but it was fun to do it, 

Riess: I guess there are certain parallels between the 
audience for that book and for John Phoenix. 

Stewart: Oh, I don't know, I may have given you more of an 
idea than is right about doing something for an 
audience. As I look back, I've done a lot just 
because the thing interested me. The puzzle, or the 
pleasure, of working it out became fascinating to me 
as such. Some of these things I knew wouldn't ever 
get anywhere very much. So maybe I've exaggerated 
the other side. 

Stewart:* You wanted to know if there was ever any time when I 
wanted to change my life-style and become a writer 
exclusively. Of course, that thought occurred to me, 
but not too strongly. As a matter of fact, I never 
made any great money by my books in a regular way. 
I was not a professional writer who could turn out 
a Job to specifications. I never did learn that trick. 
I can't say I ever tried too hard at it. So I didn't 
get involved too much in the idea of quitting my 
teaching. I felt I was in a stronger position with 
the teaching. 

Later on, as you probably know, I was only 
teaching half time. I began my half-time service 
with the University on July 1, 19^7. It was not 
worked out with Ben Lehman, who was chairman of the 
English Department, so much as it was directly with 
Sproul, as president. As it turned out it was a 
very unusual situation. I am about the only person 
who had enjoyed that particular arrangement. 

The idea for Storm, as I tell in the introduction 
to the Modern Library edition, came to me while I was 
in Mexico, in the early months of 1938- To repeat 
here, there were some big storms in California which 
were reported in the Mexican newspapers. It seemed 
to me that anything which was so interesting as to be 
reported to people clear off in Mexico, should have 
a story in it. So I thought I would write the story 
of what happened when the storm hit California. When 
I got into the subject, I found it was a very much 
greater subject than I had had in mind to start with. 
I had not known much about meteorology at that point, 
and I didn't realize that a storm really has a life 
and growth and death of itself. That was a very 
interesting idea to me when I struck it. I saw very 
soon that it had tremendous implications in the book. 

You suggest that this was the investigative side 
of my nature which took over at this point. That 
certainly is true. There's no question about that, 
that I have a tremendous, well, you can say curiosity, 
about all sorts of things. I really went to town on 

*Because we had run out of tape, George Stewart dictated 
the following in a handheld mic, pausing for my 
questions, which can be deduced. [S.R. ] 



Stewart: that matter, in connection with Storm* I did a lot 
of work on meteorology. I got introduced to the 
Weather Bureau in San Francisco. I used to visit 
over there at times, especially when there were big 
storms on. I got a lot out of that. I got to be 
very friendly with some of those people, who are all 
gone now. 

I also had an arrangement with the University 
on that. That was with Monroe Deutsch. I think he 
held the title of vice-president at that time. He 
said, "Well, you can consider it just as if you were 
a scientist at work on something, and if you have to 
take some time off to go to see something, why, that's 
all right." He was a very fine man in that and other 

So when a big storm came up, and we knew it was 
coming, Ted and I would cut off and go someplace, 
most often up to Dormer Pass to see what was happening 
there. Gradually, I got more and more idea of the 
possibilities. I would pick up stories and incidents. 
I picked up the story of Johnnie Hartley going into 
the dam. That actually happened. And the animal that 
rolled down into the culvert was not a pig in the 
original story. It was a bull. But anyway it made 
a story. I shifted it to a boar because somehow or 
other it made better sense. You could imagine a boar 
being carried away more easily than a bull, which has 
longer legs. Obviously the other could happen, but 
it's not so easy to write about. 

Then I went with the railroads. The Western 
Pacific took me up on a little kind of flatcar all 
through the Feather River Canyon. That's where I got 
the story of the bull. It had nothing to do with what 
I saw, but I got the story there. 

Then the Southern Pacific took me through the 
snow sheds. I rode in the engine of a snowplow 
there. Of course it was before the streamliner was 
stuck in the snow. That was an incident I did not 
use, because it had not happened yet. 

PG & E gave me very good cooperation. They took 
me up to Grass Valley one day when there had been a 
little storm, and there was damage around. And of 
course the story of the dam that was a PG & E dam, 


Stewart: And a lot happened along the U.S. 40, as it was 
then. I went up one day I was by myself this time 
and I oame to a place where there was a telephone 
truck parked by the road, and a man getting out, 
fooling around with equipment. So I stopped and asked 
if I could go in with him to see what he was going 
to do. He said, "Yes." I remember he gave me some 
snowshoes. We went In, and here was a wire gone bad 
up on a pole. He put on his climbers and climbed up 
the pole. I watched him from down below as he was 
working at it. As he was working there, this tree, 
a fir tree I think it was, right close to him I guess 
it wasn't a fir tree, it was a cedar it leaned over. 
The snow was falling all the time. It Just started 
leaning over. It leaned over right against the pole. 
I didn't say anything, because I thought he saw what 
was happening. He started to climb down, and when he 
hit this tree he fell, right down into the snow. 

He wasn't hurt, but he got up and he said, "I 
was afraid I would fall on my ski poles," which were 
stuck in the snow right at the bottom of the pole. 
So I used that Incident do you remember that? almost 
as it happened. 

And then the incident of the two people and the 
coyote. The two people went off the road and they 
found them because of the coyote tracks. I used that 
incident. It was funny on that one, because I talked 
to the man who had something to do with finding them 
I think he was the superintendent up there. I said 
something about, "That was very dramatic about the 
coyote tracks." He said, "Aw, hell, there were tracks 
all over everywhere. We didn't find them by the 
coyote tracks! I put that in because it sounded kind 
of good." [laughter] I thought if it sounded pretty 
good for him, it ought to sound pretty good for me 
too, so I kept it I 

It was strictly research, yes. I didn't do any 
writing until I had the thing all organized. I went 
through two winters, doing that kind of work. Then 
of course, when the spring came, after the second 
winter, there wasn't any more work I could do on 
research that amounted to anything, so I began writing 

In answer to your question, I can say that Random 
House was very much interested in this. In fact, I 


Stewart: think that was an important factor in their publishing 
Doctor's Oral, that they knew I had the other book 
on the way. Doctor's Oral, as I said, was not a 
particularly attractive book financially, but a good 
publisher is always willing to string along with an 
author when he sees something that has possibilities 
coming along in the future. Of course they didn't 
know if I could do that book or not. It still was 
pretty vague, but that's part of publishing. Storm 
hadn't developed very much at the time I wrote the 
contract for Doctor's Oral. 


I'll say something about Storm too on the 
technical side. You see, I already had two novels 
besides the Ordeal by Hunger, which some people like 
to call a novel (anyway, the technique had something 
the same). I'd been experimenting. I've spoken 
already about the point of view, and the question of 
scene and summary, in those books. So I came to 
Storm t and I still had the same problem. You always 
have that problem. But here I had a great many themes, 
a great many strands. I plotted this book too. I'm 
a great visual person. I like to see things where 
you can look at them. Storm has about a dozen threads 
running through it. It has the general background, 
objectively, of the storm itself. It has the weather 
bureau. And then it has a great many other themes, 
some of which run for only a short part of the book; 
others run all the way through. Some disappear 
because well, in one instance, the man gets killed, 
and that's done. 

By this time I had had enough experience to do 
that sort of thing, which is pretty difficult, and 
to run these themes in parallel, I guess you'd call 
it. It was very lucky that I did two novels before 
I did Storm, before I got the idea of Storm. Because 
if I'd got the idea of Storm, say, right after I'd 
written Ordeal by Hunger, before I'd written any 
novels, I probably would not have had the skill to 
master it. I was very lucky (that was one case where 
I was lucky in my career) that I got that bigger 
theme when I was developed enough that I was able to 
handle it. 

>e ~. 



INTERVIEW VI, Storm, Fire, Names on the Land, Man; 
beginnings and endings of books; work for the Navy; 
a story; marriage to Theodosia Burton; the Facility 
Club; loyalty oath crisis. (Recorded October 12, 1971) 

[continuing discussion of Storm] 

Stewart: When I started out I didn't know what I had hold of 

at all, because I didn't know much about meteorology. 
I had Just envisioned the story in the format which 
had been done before, for instance in Grand Hotel, 
in which you have a certain number of characters tied 
up around some unity. In this case it would have been 
the storm. That would have made a good enough book 
too. But as I got into it, I saw the storm itself 
had this life and death structure, so that the book 
shifted to the storm, and the people became auxiliary 
to the storm. I think that was the biggest stroke I 
made in shaping the book up. As far as I know, nobody's 
ever done that before. You can only do it with a 
certain type of subject. 

It came almost entirely as a sudden insight, 
when I started working on the meteorology. I saw 
that there was this evolution of a storm, something 
which was really discovered in the year 191 7 > not so 
very far back, with the researches of the great 
Norwegian meteorologist, Vllhelm BJerknes, who really 
transformed all of meteorology. Of course it's 
developed a good deal and changed a good deal, but it 
still remains the basic conception. 

His conception was of a storm which began and 
grew and had a powerful period and then died off. 
That was Just made for my purposes once I saw that 
there was a cycle there. You have to see it first, 


Stewart: of course. So I began studying that particular type 
of storm, which wan the kind I would have to deal 
with In California. (There are several types of 
storms. That's not the only one. But this Is the 
one I had to deal with on account of my geographical 
background. ) 

I found that quotation which I used In the front 
of Storm, from Sir Napier Shaw, about the story of 
any natural event being a kind of fairy tale.* That 
was made for my purposes also. I took that up, and 
that helped shape my thinking. 

Then I had to determine how long a time this 
was going to cover. Of course I had always envisioned 
it as a short time span. I'm terribly interested in 
the problem of time. I would certainly go along with 
Thornton Wilder on that.** I'd had two experiments 
already, you see. I spoke about that In connection 
with the other two novels. This was still another 
way of handling time. 

Then I started, drawing maps that's the simplest 
way to represent a storm and going over to the 
weather bureau, talking with the weather bureau people 
over there. Then drawing more maps. Then I'd scrap 
them all and start in again, and figure out how long 
I needed to work out all these things. Gradually the 
twelve worked out. I'm not sure how much the idea 
of the magical number twelve had to do with that. It 
probably had something to do with it, because twelve 
is a famous number. 

Riess: What's it famous for? 

Stewart: Oh, twelve apostles [laughing] and the twelve days of 
Christmas. Twelve, you see, is the place where the 

* "Every theory of the course of events in nature is 
necessarily based on some process of simplification 
of the phenomena and is to some extent therefore a 
fairy tale." Sir Napier Shaw, Manual of Meteorology; 
I, 123- 

**"... an unresting preoccupation with the surprise of 
the gulf between each tiny occasion of the daily 
life and the vast stretches of time and place in 
which every individual plays his role." Writers at 
Work. Viking Press, 1958, Thornton Wilder, p. 113. 

Stewart: teens begin. It's the baker's dozen. You buy eggs 
by the dozen. It's all tied up, and it's a magical 
number, along with seven. But I don't know how 
Important that was. It probably had some Influence, 
because It's very neat to have things work out that 
way. It was the right length of time. 

You see, I had time to develop the storm, which 
then was very small. And that gave me a chance to 
work up all of my exposition. Get the characters 
established in a period of rest, and introduce things 
like the electric company,, and the highway patrol and 
the snow-sweeping people. I got them all introduced 
in a period of quiet, and then as the storm grew up, 
everything got going harder, you see. That worked out 
very nicely. 

If the storm had started all at once, bang! you 
see, I would have had a big storm going and no people, 
nothing for the storm to fit into. 

Hiess: It's a matter of building up tension? 

Stewart: Yes, yes. Getting people Interested in these things. 

Of course the people begin to think, "Well, something's 
going to happen about that." "This fellow's riding 
up the highway, and all that, and it's going to come 
in," you see. That worked out very well. 

I did some writing on Storm which I junked because 
it didn't fit in well together. It was partly the 
suggestion of the publishers, the editor there, Saxe 
Commins. I did quite a little revision on Storm. 

Hiess: What sort of material did you Junk? 

Stewart: Oh, I had a couple who went up the road to get away 

for a weekend, an unmarried couple. That was a story 
I'd heard of, with a twist at the end. It wasn't a 
bad episode. They sent out word that she was having 
a baby, and the highway patrol fought their way in 
through the snow to get them out of there. She walked 

out with obviously no baby. 
episode, but the publishers 
of disturbed the book, as a 
right. It's nice to have a 
it for a change. 

It was a good enough 
thought the sex theme sort 
whole. I think they were 
book without any sex in 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 


How did It feel to have part of the book rejected? 

Well, that didn't bother me, because I don't think I 
had much heart in It myself. I don't think I really 
thought that was too good. They didn't reject It. I 
could have kept It If I'd wanted to, but I didn't. 
I agreed with them on It. 

I had the Idea that once It was thought out, It was 
all so much of a piece. 

Well, no. Storm in a sense is not that all together. 
Those different threads could be picked out, you see, 
rather easily. You couldn't pick out very many of 
them, or you wouldn't have any book left, [laughing] 
You could pick out one or two all right. They 
disentangle very easily. Actually, they weren't 
connected crosswise. They were connected centrally 
on the storm theme, but there were almost no cross- 
connections between them. Each one could come right 

Has anybody used that pattern, now that you've done 
it? Did anything come out like this, after Storm? 

No, not much. There have been places where people 
have taken over some part of the technique. It's 
not an easy thing to do, you know. It's not easy 
to get a theme that will carry it. Most people are 
not interested in the natural background, at least 
not most novelists. They want to emphasize the 
connection of people all the time. I wouldn't say 
that there's been anything which has directly Imitated 
it, except that fellow in Holland that plagiarized 
it pretty much. I've read books where I could say, 
'Oh, there's something of Storm in that." You can 

see that every now and then, 
used that technique. 

But nothing which really 

There was quite an advertising campaign that went 
with Storm. That whole treatment, the autograph 
parties, etc., was that the first of your books to 
receive that kind of promotion from the publishers? 

Stewart: Oh, I think I had a little of that thing before that. 

Riess: With East of the Giants did you go around to autograph? 

Stewart: What* s-;his -name, the man who had the bookstore, the 
father of the man who Just retired, Elder, he used 
to have little parties pretty regularly, and one 
thing or another, I've done things like that. 

Rless: With Storm, did you tour the country? 

Stewart: Well, of course, there again, I imagine I would have 
done more if it hadn't been for Pearl Harbor. That 
cut out that sort of thing. I had offers to do 
lectures, but I didn't take them up. 

That book had a big circulation, though. I 
don't know how many copies of Storm have circulated. 
People ask me that every now and then. I'm getting 
now to say, "About a million, 11 which might be true 
at the present time. I'm not at all sure, because you 
lose track of these things, particularly paperbacks. 
Publishers never give you any real breakdown on how 
many copies, and they sell them by the hundreds of 
thousands. I don't think they keep very good track 
themselves. If they get too many in a warehouse, they 
Just pulp them and start all over again. I don't 
think they ever count them carefully. So, Just 
figuring the Book of the Month Club and the various 
reprints, Including all the paperbacks and so forth, 
and the Modern Library going on for twenty years or 
more, I estimated it ten years or so ago and I came 
up with 800,000, so I figure maybe it's gone to a 
million I don't know. That might not be a long way 
off. Of ' course that would count the translations too. 

Riess: Were you a changed man after all of the success of 

Stewart: I suppose, to some extent, yes. I had much more 

confidence in myself. The additional money was very 
useful too. It gave me more to come and go on, and 
do some things that I wouldn't have been able to 
afford doing before that time. That made a difference. 

Riess: Is there anything else that you would like to say 
about Storm? 

Stewart: Well, I would like to say something sometime about 

beginnings and endings. Have I talked about that yet? 

Stewart: Storm has a remarkably good beginning and ending, 
and that's not an accident. I worked that out very 
carefully in both cases. I consider myself a 
specialist on beginnings I I more or less felt, why 
throw away your first sentence? That's the sentence 
that you catch a person with. If you can catch a 
person with the first sentence, well, catch them and 
don't let them get away. That's my attitude. 

I know I've had people tell me that. A man said 
that starting one of my books was like eating the 
first peanut. You can't stop, because something goes 
on. If you look at my books, you will see that most 
of them start with all with a careful sentence, and 
I think most of them with a striking sentence. Of 
course Earth Abides is the most remarkable one. It 
always took my breath away, and it does other people 

Also I'm very particular about the ending, because 
that's what leaves the last taste in a person's mouth, 
the ending of the story, the very wording and everything. 
So I want to be careful with the beginning and ending. 

Riess: Do your endings sum up in some way? 

Stewart: Oh yes. I try to sum up and to call up the rest of 
the story one way or another. That's the old trick 
of swinging back to the beginning. That's always a 
good trick. I did that a good deal. 

Riess: I will go back and fill in some beginnings and endings 
for the manuscript. But why don't you quote some 

Stewart: Well, the first sentence I can't quote them all, I'm 
very sorry, but I know what they're like. The first 
sentence of Storm, you see, has one word in there 
which is of great importance, which nobody would notice 
probably.* Yet I have had people speak of it. That 
is, the fact that it's in the past tense. "The earth 

*Storm; "Enveloped in the gaseous film of the 
atmosphere, half -covered by a skim of water forming 
the oceans the great sphere of the earth spun upon 
its axis and moved inflexibly in its course around 
the sun. " 

*-. FS 


Stewart: spun upon Its axis." That catches people's 

attention immediately. I don't know whether you see 
that or not. 

But the point is, we think of the earth as a 
continuous process, and when you say "the earth spun," 
it means that this is one particular moment of time. 
And the whole book goes on that. This is what's 
happening right now. It's a natural phenomenon, it's 
a recurrent phenomenon, but you're dealing with this 
particular instant. 

Here's where my study of Russian came in, and 
the aspects of the verb. English has aspects too, 
really. We call them tenses in English, but they 
really are aspects. I learned that when I studied 
Russian, from my professor. Well, a little theoretical 
background. I knew perfectly well what I was doing 
when I wrote that past tense there. 

Earth Abides starts out about the United States 
being dissolved, "By order of the Acting President. 
God save the people of the United States..." 1 That's 
a very startling sentence. You must make a first 
sentence do as much work as you can, too. Establish 
everything you possibly can. In two of my nonflotion 
books, I tried to establish the authenticity of the 
story in the first sentence. "'Tamsen Dormer was sad 
as the wagons turned aside,' Mr. Thornton noted in his 
diary." I gave the authority for it right there. 
And the same in Pickett's Charge. The sentence I 
worked over tremendously was the first sentence of 
Sheep Rock. I can't quote it to you, but I remember 
a funny little incident about that, speaking about 
editorial work. I was going to bring this up when 
we came to Sheep Rock t but I can mention it now Just 
as well. 

I went to New York. I had sent the manuscript 
on some time before, and Saxe Commins had read it, and 
he said, "Well, there isn't much I would suggest doing 
with that manuscript, but we might take a look at it." 
So he got it out and he said, "You know, I think we 
ought to cut that comma out of that first sentence." 
I looked at it and I didn't really think so. I thought 
we'd better keep it. But that was the only suggestion 
that was made, and I thought, politely, "Well, maybe 
he's right." [laughter] So I said, "All right. Cut 
it out." 

Stewart: I went back to the hotel, and I got to thinking 
about it, "I'm right. That comma ought to be there." 
So I called up the next morning and said, "Hey, Saxe. 
Would you mind putting that comma back in?" He said, 
"Well, no. I wouldn't mind. That's all right if you 
want it there. I'll put it back in." So that was 
the editorial work on Sheep Rook. I wanted that 
comma there to slow the movement a little bit. That 
was really why I wanted it. 

Some time I'd better give a reading of first 
and last openings and closings of my books. I'd 
like to read them some time. 

Host novelists, you know, don't go in for 
striking first sentences. One of the really famous 
ones, of course, is the one from Moby Dick. "Call 
me Ishmael." That's a sentence that catches your 
attention, right off. Then you've got Dickens, "It 
was the best of times, it was the worst of times," 
and so forth. That's a famous one. But there are not 
very many famous first sentences. 

Riess: What was the first sentence of Fire? 

Stewart: That was about the thundercloud, the storm sweeping 
north over the crests of the mountains, with all its 
lightning striking here and there.* That's a good 

Riess: I think your first sentences tend then to have a touch 
of the ominous. 

Stewart: Well, that's often been said about my work, that I 

was a chronicler of catastrophe. That's not altogether 
true, because after all I'm a chronicler of the ecology, 
and in ecology there isn't any good or bad, really. 
It's how it plays into the whole scheme of things. So 
Storm, as I always try to emphasize, both in the book 
and out of it, is not a disaster. The storm, after 
all, is a necessary part you've got to get the rain. 
California would be dead without the rain and the snow 
that comes. So it's not a disaster. 

^"Suddenly ablaze with lightnings, the piled-up 
thundercloud swept northwards across the tops of 
the mountains." 

Riess: That's what the book tells, but for somebody who 
doesn't know as much as you do 

Stewart: Yes. They were always melodramatizlng Storm, and 

building up the action "this Is the greatest storm 
of the century," and that sort of thing. I kept 
saying all the time, "This is what happens every 
year." Nobody ever paid any attention to that. 

If I were writing Fire now, I would change the 
approach of it a little bit. I've come to realize, 
better than I did at the time, that fire too is an 
ecological phenomenon. Fire is not necessarily a 
bad thing in itself, it's only if it gets in the wrong 
place. It is part of the cycle, really. Of course, 
it's been disturbed by man, because it's mostly 
burning in second growth stuff already. But not 
altogether. It destroys something here and of course 
the deer come back. There are a great many more deer 
after a fire, you see, than there are before. So as far 
as the deer are concerned, it really builds them up. 

Riess: Why is that? 

Stewart: Well, they live on brush. A big forest is almost 

barren. That's what most people don't realize. All 
this sentiment about big trees is really a love of 
the desert, in a way, because nothing much lives in 
big trees. A few squirrels and some martens to eat 
them, that's about all. When you get the second 
growth, that's when the animals come in. You get rich 
life that comes after a fire. There's something of 
that in the book, but not too much. I would shift 
that a little if I were writing it again. 

Riess: Do you think that people feel what's lacking in a big 
forest in that way? 

Stewart: No, they just get sentimental about the big trees, 

*Ed's Note: Fire ends: "Moist and clean, the north 
west wind from the ocean blew steadily across the 
long ridges, and from high-swinging cones, opened by 
the fiery heat, the winged seeds drifted downward to 
the earth. " 

Stewart: which ^ive them a sense of awe to look at, I guess. 
I've never been a big tree man myself. I think the 
young forest Is often much more beautiful than the 
old forest, fresher and greener and growing so fast. 
It's youth, whereas the big trees are Just the old men. 
They're Just standing there, waiting to fall over 
someday I 

Riess: The thing about going to big trees is the experience 
of looking up through the tops. 

Stewart: It's partly that. It's partly the sentiment which 
has been built up over a hundred years or so. I've 
often argued about that, that the young trees are 
really more beautiful. 

Riess: Do the last sentences come round from the first 
sentence? In the case of Storm, does the last 
sentence say something about the spinning earth? 

Stewart: Oh, yes, it does. That's a nice sentence, the last 
sentence there. "It gave no sign that storms or man 
disturbed its tranquil round. Bright against the 
black of midnight, or yellow at the dawn, it hung in 
the sky unflickering and serene." It's a nice 
sentence. It does give you the earth in space again. 
You're drawn off from it. You're so far away that 
you don't have any impression of storms or anything. 

Maybe we should have a few books in here so I 
could read you some of the sentences. 

Riess: Some writers include significant quotes, like your's 
from Sir Napier Shaw. And there are sometimes other 
clues and prefatory material in a book. 

Stewart: All my books start right off. I mean, after all, that 
one little sentence by Sir Napier Shaw is not enough 
to do much. I keep away from prefaces. You noticed 
that. Practically never. I hit the first sentence 
and go. I can't see the point of having a lot of 
stuff in front of your book. You might as well get 
it going. If you want to have an introduction, put 
it at the end. That's what I've done. And acknowledge 
ments and that kind of thing. 

Riess: In Doctor's Oral, then, it's all part of the book. 


Stewart: I would call that part of the book, yes. That might 
be called a kind of introduction, but I haven't even 
had that much mostly. I've got about a paragraph in 
The Years of the City. But mostly not. 

Why throw it away? Take it from an advertiser's 
point of view that's the best position you have, the 
very first page. That's your point of emphasis. You 
see, all those devices like paragraphs and chapters 
should be used for points of emphasis. Anybody is 
bound to be affected by all that white space. 

Riess: Do chapters tend to end at a time in your writing a 
time where you would halt for the day? 

Stewart: Oh, partly. If I were somewhere near the end of my 

day, and I came to the end of a chapter, I would quit, 
yes. But I generally conceived a chapter as a kind 
of unit which creates an effect in some books more 
important than others. In East of the Giants, for 
instance, the chapter was very important. But a 
chapter never can be conceived as a complete unit, 
because you don't want the person to quit reading. 
After all, the chapter should lean upon the next 
chapter, so that they go right on. 

Riess: What about the ending sentences in chapters? Do they 
have a certain value that you calculate, also? 

Stewart: The paragraph has, certainly, and the last sentence 
of a chapter is important. The first sentence too. 
But it shouldn't have quite the same importance, 
because it isn't a thing in itself. It leads on to 
the next one. So it should be leading ahead, not 
giving too great a sense of "this is the end," you 
see. Because you never know you never have the 
perfect reader. You always imagine the perfect 
reader, but 

Riess: Oh, tell me what the perfect reader would bet 

Stewart: Well, the perfect reader is the one who would always 

have good conditions under which to read. The doorbell 
and telephone wouldn't ring, and so forth, so you 
would have control of him. He would understand what 
you were doing, would have a similar background. Not 
the same background, of course, but a similar back 
ground. In my books, particularly, I had to explain 
certain things as I go along, Juggle two or three balls 





at once. This reader would follow right along, 
would be attuned to your reader, you see. 



Then of course he would always stop reading at 
the end of a chapter. He would never stop reading in 
the middle of a chapter. He would also stop at the 
proper places otherwise too. That's something you 
can't really do. I don't think you want a reader to 
read the whole book at once. Most of my books are 
too long for that. Sometimes people write me that 
they have, but I don't think reading up till three 
o'clock in the morning really gives a book a very 
good chance, because I think the reader gets too tired. 
So to have the perfect reader, you would have the one 
who would break off his reading at just the proper 
time. Not just one chapter, but say he read four or 
five chapters, or something like that. So you see, 
you could have a perfect reader. 

Do you think the perfect reader wouldn't have to go 
back and check material? 

Stewart: No, he wouldn't ever. He'd remember. That's asking 
a good deal of a reader! 

Riess: That's asking a good deal of a writer, too! 

Stewart: Well, you see, unless you wrote for a perfect, or a 
special reader, you wouldn't ever know. Because you 
never know when you're saying things too often. For 
instance, how often should you repeat a character's 
name? I think several times, because the ordinary 
reader is going to forget it, and then if you bring 
it out all of a sudden, he won't pick up who the 
person is. So you string along, you give him the 
name two or three times, maybe even oftener. But 
that may be an insult to a really good reader, [laughing] 
He'd say, "Why are they giving me this so much for?" 
You don't know. 

A really keen reader well, sometimes, of course, 
it can go the other way. Sometimes they read too 
fast also. I think you get one of these really high- 
powered, high IQ readers, they sometimes will read too 
fast. They don't savor what's going on. As I say, 
you're up against an impossibility. You just hit a 
certain average in there, with a shotgun method, and 
you hope that you get people who will be able to read 
it well enough. If they can't remember the character's 


Stewart: name, they won't worry about It, or else they'll go 
back and look it up again, or something like that. 
But you can't be absolutely sure. 

Hi ess: I think that someday you should play with the idea 
of writing the same story for the limping, lame 
reader and for your perfect reader. 

Stewart: That would be fun, wouldn't it? I don't know that I 
even write for the perfect reader. I think I look 
upon my reader as needing some help. I need help when 
I read a book. I have trouble picking up character's 
names. I hate these books that throw so many 
characters at you so fast, and don't give you much 
clue to remembering who is tied up with which name, 
that kind of thing. 

I read this book on the San Francisco earthquake, 
Just finished it, and every time they mention Funston, 
they referred to him as Brigadier General Funston. I 
got sick of reading that Brigadier General Funston. 
I knew him by that time, you seel And every time they 
referred to the mayor, they called him Mayor Schmitz. 
They could have Just called him Schmitz, once they 
got him introduced. But I thought that was a very 
funny book in that respect. 

No, I can see my reader as a person that has to 
be snared, and then held. He's always trying to get 
away. Something's always taking him away from my book! 
[laughing] And so that's really my attitude towards 
the reader. I make every effort to hold him, once 
I get him in the first sentence and then don't let 
him get away. And I must have been fairly successful. 

I had a club meeting last night, and here was 
Frank Gerbode, who is one of the big surgeons of the 
city. He was sitting beside me. He started talking 
about Earth Abides. It turned out that his wife 
Martha was critically ill (she has since died), and 
they'd got the house full of nurses. He said it was 
the second time round on Earth Abides. All the family 
read it once before and now they're' reading it again. 
He said the nurses are reading it. So that's very 

Actually I think that's probably a good book to 
die by. It's not religious, and yet it has a certain 
feeling in the last part there. I know when Mrs. 


Stewart: Stewart had her stroke I got out Earth Abides and read 
all the last part of it. It was very comforting. 

Hi ess: It's nice that you like your books. 

Stewart: Well, I don f t read them very often. When a book comes 
out in 'a reprint, I sometimes do read it, because 
people start asking me questions every now and then, 
and you forget. You don't remember all the details 
of a book forever. I often read something that way, 
and I'm usually happy. 

Let's talk about Names on the Land. That book 
has, in many ways, been my favorite of all the books 
I've done. I don't know if I would say that as an 
absolute, but one reason is that it's the most 
difficult book I ever did. It came out so that it 
pleased me quite well in the end. That's important, 
because after all, something you worked terribly hard 
at and had. a terrific struggle trying to master, 
naturally, you're impressed when you're able to do 
something with it. 

Riess: When did you start on it? 

Stewart: I started on that immediately after I finished Storm. 
I worked very hard on it. Of course I had a good 
background on it before I started, because I'm 
Interested in names. And I had a pretty well vacant 
year at Princeton there, on that fellowship, so I did 
a lot of work there. The greatest trouble, though, 
was not the research in the ordinary sense, although 
that was a big Job, a hard job also. But the greatest 
Job was trying to shape the material into something 
that you could do. There's no model for that book at 
all. It is absolutely on its own. And I was able to 
do that. That naturally pleased me very much that I 
got it that way. 

It's written in a somewhat unusual style, too. 
Possibly a little too self-consciously. For instance 
I don't think there's a single use of the do or did, 
paraphrastic negative, you know? 

Riess: No, I don't know. 

Stewart: Well, when you say "I did not," or "he did not." That's 
avoided, I think all the way through there. I don't 
think I ever used that. At that time I decided I didn't 



like it. You can always avoid it I may have made 
a few slips. I don't think so, though. 

And another thing, I used the relative pronoun 
"which" all the time instead of "that." I'm not sure 
that's too good, always, but that was my style. I 
was doing that. 


Why did you? 


Well, the "did" business is not graceful, really, 
a roundabout way of saying something. It's one of 
these it's a kind of a box that the English language 
got itself caught up in. I didn't like it at that 
time. I don't like it now. I keep away from it 
pretty much. Even so, that was doctrinaire in Names 
on the Land. 

Riess: Would one notice it In reading it? 

Stewart: No, I don't think you would. I don't think anybody 
ever knows i^. I've never told anybody except you. 
That isn't the point. I think the style of the book 
that's one reason I like it, it's probably the best 
I ever did, or one of the best. There are passages 
in that book which have always been very moving to me. 
Have you read that one? 

Hless: I skipped through it, looking up places I knew. 

Stewart: Well, it's not for everybody, that book, although it's 
appealed to a pretty good number of people. But as 
I say, it's been in many ways my favorite book of all 
of them. 

Riess: You were mentioning some of the favorite passages. 

Stewart: Yes. Well, I like the opening of that book, and the 
ending.* They're both very good. I hope you don't 
mind my being so complimentary to my own books! 

*Names on the Land; "Once, from eastern ocean to 
western ocean, the land stretched away without names. 
Nameless headlands split the surf... Men came at last, 
tribe following tribe..." 

"After all else has passed, the names may yet 
remain. * 



Riess: No, and I hope you don't mind the fact that I can't 
quote them to you. 

Stewart: Well, I can't quote them either, as a matter of fact. 
I know both the beginning and ending of that book. 
I hit off all right. It starts off with a passage 
about when there were no names, and then it ends at 
the one thing I was never quite happy about was 
that when they put out the new edition of that book 
they covered up my original ending. I didn't like 
that. One of those jams you get into. At least I 
know just how it should be. 

The way they did it well, it was a mechanical 
problem, partly my fault. I didn't realize what they 
were going to do. They just covered up the original 
ending. They added some more chapters to it, you see. 

Riess: And tried to use the original plates? 

Stewart: Yes, they used the original plates. The book was 

badly set up. Or not badly set up, but it was set up 
during war time, and it didn't have whole pages blank 
at the end of chapters. It's an interesting example 
of the problem you can get into with a mechanical 
problem like that. Again, a thing most people wouldn't 
think of. 

Riess: How is Names on the Land organized? 

Stewart: It's organized chronologically, that's all. As well 
as it can be. Of course very few things can be 
organized absolutely chronologically. 

But here, you see, you have to have the general 
scheme in chronological order, but you have to package 
it up in one way. For instance, there will come along 
a chapter where you have to get in the French influence, 
and of course you put that in where it more or less 
belongs chronologically, but it may extend over a good 
many years Itself, you see. So you have to package 
it in. It gets to be somewhat difficult at times to 
handle that. You do the best you can. 

Riess: You always saw it as a history, rather than a 

Stewart: Oh yes, that's the whole point, the story of how the 
names are given, how the names came to the United 
States, how they filled in the map. There's never 


Stewart: been anything like that really, I don't think even 

yet. You can't do it in most countries, "because you 
don't have the data. In the United States you've got 
pretty good data. 

Riess: Did you do maps with it, or include them? 

Stewart: Well, I didn't need to do maps particularly with 

that, no. You could have done maps. I had printed 
some maps in the revised edition, the new edition. 
But the maps are chiefly statistical. They weren't 
very useful to me. 

Riess: I was thinking of something like layering of the colors 
of the different influences of countries, maybe. 

Stewart: Oh yes. There's been a great deal of that done in 

European name study mostly. But that was really not 
the sort of thing I wanted to do in this book. I 
wasn't approaching it from a mass statistical approach. 

Riess: At this point, was Random House Just taking everything 
you wrote, or did you have to sell them on this idea? 

Stewart: They took everything. At least, I wrote a contract 
for that as soon as I had finished well, when I was 
in New York, the time that Storm came out. 

Names on the Land sold fairly well. I can't 
remember exactly. It got the front page of the New 
York Herald Tribune, which was one of the big reviews 
in those times. And it got very good reviews, some of 
the best reviews I ever got. 

Riess: [Having turned over tape...] You were going to read 
some beginning and ending sentences. 

Stewart: Well, here's Earth Abides, of course. "And the govern 
ment of the United States of America is herewith 
suspended, except in the District of Columbia, as of 
the emergency." I think that's a good sentence. 

Riess: Yes, that is I 

Stewart: And here's the last of that book, the last paragraph, 
two or three little sentences. "Then, though his 
sight was now very dim, he looked again at the young 
man. 'They will commit me to the earth,' he thought, 
'yet I also commit them to the earth. There's nothing 


Stewart: else by which men live. Men go and come, but earth 
abides." 1 That's actually the first time, I think, 
"earth abides" is mentioned, given as so many words, 
in the book. 

Here's Sheep Rock, the sentence I was talking 
about before. "A thousand years and more, by then, 
had passed since the silty waters of the dwindling 
lake, withdrawing, had let the spring once more begin 
to bubble out beneath the open sky." 

The comma that we argued about was the one after 
"then." "A thousand years and more, by then,..." 
I wanted a little pause in there. It wasn't necessary 
grammatically, but it's all right grammatically to put 
a comma there, and it slows down the action. There 
again, you see, was the idea of time. "A thousand 
years and more, by then, had passed..." It isn't a 
definition of when "then" is, but you've arrived at 
some point, you see, dated by being a thousand years 
and more from some other point. 

A lot of this book dealt with long periods of 
time. I coined words in there. There was no unit of 
time longer than a millennium in ordinary usage, 
which doesn't do at all. So I coined "decimillennium" 
and "centimillennium," and I used "millennium" for a 
million years. I doubt if you'd find those anywhere 
else, but it's pretty obvious what they mean. I really 
needed them in this book, because I was dealing in 
periods very much longer than a thousand years. Let's 
see what the ending of that is. I don't remember 

This is about the mountain sheep that they saw: 
"The two men sat up, and after a few minutes the ram 
reappeared, as he went up across one of the old beaches 
and around the shoulder of the high black rock. Still 
watching, they saw him again far off and little, as 
he climbed the red slope of the mountain, till at the 
crest he suddenly faded out into the brightness of the 

Riess: There's a lot that's very poetic abo.ut your writing. 

Stewart: I always thought of myself that way. I don't exactly 
know what a poet is, but I always wrote with that in 
mind. Sheep fiook is probably my most poetic book, I 



Stewart: suppose people would say, the way it's put together. 

Riess: That's Just the way it came out? Or did you work 
over the passage? 

Stewart: Well, I worked over it plenty, [laughing] It came 
out somewhere. I'd have to look at my manuscript to 
find that out. You'd find a lot of erasing on that. 

Riess: When you finished Names on the Land, did you have any 
of the subsequent names books in mind? 

Stewart: No. It was a long time before I took them up. I 
didn't see much else I could do along that line at 
the time. Oh, I did think about it a little bit as 
I remember, too, but I decided not to do anything more 
about it, then. I'd done a good Job on that one, 
and it's a good idea to quit when you've done a good 

About Man that I suppose is the most "tour de 
force" thing I ever did. I'm not sure what a tour de 
force is. Most of my books have been so called. I 
don't like the term particularly well. It always 
implies something superficial or artificial. But Man 
is my greatest example of simplification, and turned 
out to be over-simplification. People didn't like 
the thing being made so easy. It had a pretty good 
reception. It got some big reviews, surprisingly so. 

I still think it's a good book, but it's over 
simplified, probably. At least that seems to be the 
general opinion. 

Riess: You mention simplification as one of the things you 
were working at as a writer. 

Stewart: Oh yes. I don't think you can get things too simple, 
myself. But other people don't look at it that way. 
It seems to me that the story of man, seen that way, 
is a very simple thing in many ways, if you look at 
it with big enough perspective. It gets completely 
fouled up by people putting "whereases" and "possibly 's" 
and one thing and another. But if you get far enough 
away to look at it, it becomes a very simple and very 
fascinating story, and a moving story. That's really 
what I tried to do, tell it in as simple as possible 
terms, using the device of having man speaking in his 


Stewart: own person, which of course raised a lot of obvious 
Impossibilities. There's where the tour de force 
comes in. 

At times you have a problem whether it's a man 
or a woman speaking, and that kind of thing. But 
it worked out I think all right. It had a pretty 
good success at the time it came out, but it hasn't 
held up as well as it really ought to, I think. It's 
almost what you'd call a young adult book, I think. 
It's almost in some ways a Juvenile. 

There's one sentence in it which has been picked 
out and apparently it's becoming a classic sentence. 
I've seen it quoted in two or three different books. 
I think they quote from each other now. I don't 
think they get it from Man! [laughter] But it's 
very nice to see the old sentence coming out about 
the scraper. 

The general idea was that a scraper was a little 
piece of partly shaped stone, and it's not a very 
inspiring thing to Just look at it that way, but if 
you think what it stands for, "it means not only a 
scraper, but a thing to be scraped, most likely a 
hide,..." It means leisure to do some scraping; and 
it means the confidence that you'll have enough future 
to enjoy what you've worked at. It stands for a whole 
civilization, a whole culture, you might say, to figure 
Just what the scraper means. I've seen it quoted 
several times. 

Hiess: You said at one point that one of your general themes 
was "the great human love for the simple, which is 
forced to yield in the end tragically to the complex." 

Stewart: Yes, that is more or less the theme of Man I suppose, 
the fact that things get more and more complicated 
as you go along. One thing I did was to tie the 
archaeology into the history too. Very few books 
ever try to do that. They're archaeological or 
historical. I tried to tie the two things together, 
showing how the same threads went right on through. 

Riess: But you were saying that it was important for you to 
make the book simplified. I was trying to sort out 
the simplified book from the idea of this being one 
of your themes in writing a book, where the simple 
things yield to the complicated. It seems like they 


Riess: are two different things you're talking about, a theme 
and a method. 

Stewart: Yes. The only time I tried to adjust a book stylis 
tically was The Years of the City, whloh has the four 
different parts. You see, It has the four generations. 
It starts with the first man as Just a boy, and the 
last man is a very old man, so you get a spread of 
about a hundred years In there, and about two hundred 
years altogether. You get the four generations spread 
out over two hundred years. It goes along with the 
life of the city, which Is founded on the first day 
of the story, with this boy. He's a young boy. And 
It ends with the destruction of the city two hundred 
years later when the very old man dies at the end of 
the story. 

Now I forget what I was going to illustrate by 
that. Oh, the way the style adjusted. I tried to 
write the first part more or less like a Juvenile, 
because it was being written about the boy. Then the 
third section was written in a quite complicated 
style, because this was a very sophisticated third 
generation rich man. I even tried to do a little 
parody of Henry James as part of it. Then on the 
last, it peters out again to a poverty-stricken old, 
old man, with almost no faculties left. So I tried 
to get the adjustment of style in that book. There's 
not too much though. You can't overplay that sort of 
thing, because it gets too mannered if you do, but 
there is a slight suggestion in places there. The 
second part is a young man, so the style is sort of 
vigorous and clean cut. There's a difference all the 
way through It. 

Riess: Had the idea for Fire been lurking for a while? 

Stewart: For a while, yes. After I did Storm, this man from 
the New York Times whose name I don't remember now, 
he was a well-known book man he came to interview me 
there in New York. He did not like the book terribly 
well. Then he said he thought it would be easy to do 
another one like it. I said, "What would you do it 
on?" He couldn't think he thought possibly an insect 
plague or something of that sort, but he couldn't 
come up with anything. I know I couldn't either at 
the time. People still talk about doing an earthquake 
or a volcanic eruption. I Just don't see how you can 
do it, because the time element Is too involved, for 



Stewart: one thing. And they don't have the sense of life 

that either the storm or the fire does. Hundreds of 
people said that to me at one time or another, but I 
said, H I don't see how I could do it." I never have 
done it. 

But I read a couple of books about forest fire. 
In fact, I reviewed one for the Times and that gave 
me the idea that you could do it with a forest fire, 
and so I did it. I guess that's it. I started work 
on that in 19^5* The war was still on. I made 
contact with the Forest Service. Of course, they 
were very pleased to have me doing a book like that. 
They gave me very good cooperation. I was the depart 
ment collaborator, which had a nasty sound during the 
war, [laughing] but that was my official title. That 
meant I didn't have any salary, but I had the privileges 
and courtesies. 

Then I was going to let's get this timing worked 
out. I started working in '44, not '45, only I didn't 
get much done in '44 because I Just sort of started 
out and then Parker Trask turned up and wanted me to 
go on this Navy Job. 

Riess: Please explain what that was. 

Stewart: It was a pro-submarine Job. Most of our submarine 

work was anti-submarine, of course, because that was 
the big problem, but we also had a big submarine fleet. 
This was a project really for undersea mapping. It's 
pretty complicated but the question of navigating a 
submarine and evading your enemies and so forth is all 
tied up with the conditions of the water. Not too 
much was known about it at that time, because the 
basic scientific work was only partly done. So they 
recruited me to write the stuff up. 

It was a pretty unsatisfactory Job, as lots of 
those war Jobs are, because, oh you know, they're 
all full of SNAFU one way or another. I got terribly 
disgusted. But eventually I got the work done, as 
far as I was supposed to do it. I had to get in a 
good deal deeper than I thought at first. I had one 
or two great moments of at least personal triumph, 
that didn't ever get anywhere, but I like to remember 
them. The great ooeanographer for our side was 
Sverdrup, a Norwegian, about my age. He was Director 
of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He checked 


Stewart: everything we put out. I used to take my work out 

to him to have him look it over. He was always very 
nioe, and would come out and make suggestions where 
I oould do something better. 

I had this one idea all by myself, about ocean 
ography and submarines, and I Just wrote it up. I 
hadn't gotten it out of any book or anything, I Just 
figured it out myself. So I wrote it up and took it 
out, the whole section, the whole thing, to him. Not 
Just that one paragraph. He was reading it, turning 
over the leaves. He came to this page, and I was 
watching. He was reading down through it, and he did 
a double-take on this, went back and read it through 
very carefully. He said, "You know, I never thought 
of that myself, and it's right." 

That's a nice thing to have happen, you know. 
Just a little thing like that. They wouldn't publish 
that though. The commander who was in charge of it 
and had the naval say on it, wouldn't publish it, 
because it hadn't ever been demonstrated by experience. 
But it would have worked all right. 

I had a few other interesting experiences. I 
made one contribution to submarine tactics and one 
contribution to submarine strategy. I don't think 
anybody has ever put it into actual practice. The 
question, you see, if you're in an ocean current and 
you are located by an enemy sub-chaser, should you 
evade down- current or up- current? I figured out, 
well, you ought to evade down-current, because there 
are certain technical reasons. I talked this over 
with one submarine man, and he agreed with me. So, 
if you ever get that situation, remember to evade down- 

I also suggested that they launch a big submarine 
attack when the Chinese rivers flood, because that's 
what the Germans had done to us off the Amazon. That 
played hell with our merchant marine down there, because 
somebody was sending these ships through the place 
where the Amazon runs out to the ocean, and that gave 
submarines a tremendous advantage, to get the fresh 
water on top of the salt water. Which again is a 
technical matter, so I made the suggestion that we 
ought to do this when the Chinese rivers overflowed. 
It would have worked, too, but by that time the war 


Stewart: was nearly over. I don f t think they ever put it into 
effect, so I don't think I have the blood of any 
Japanese on my hands at all, so far as I know. 

Riess: It sounds like you really fell right in with that 

Stewart: Well, there were some very interesting things about 
it. Parker Trask became a very good friend of mine. 
He died about ten years ago. He was in Berkeley 
after that. I used to see him a good deal. A very 
nice guy. He went to Alaska with me on the trip when 
I wrote N.A. I. 

Riess: You went on that Job in 19*44 and. you had started on 
Fire, but you stopped. 

Stewart: I stopped. I did a little bit of research in San 

Diego. The Forest Service there took me out one day, 
but it didn't amount to anything. Then I came back. 
I did some work on reading in the winter. It wasn't 
quite like Storm. There wasn't the same technical 
problem. A fire's a fire. It doesn't make so much 
difference . 

And then the next summer, the war was still on, 
but I wasn't on that Job. I was back in Berkeley for 
the summer. I went out with the Forest Service then. 
They shipped me up to Portland. There was a terrific 
fire outside Portland. I didn't get too much out of 
that, but you learn slowly. Then I was in various 
Jobs in Northern California, around several fires. I 
saw some paratroopers Jump at a fire. Then I wanted 
to get some experience on look-out, so they assigned 
Sierra Buttes to me. Do you know where that is? 

Riess: No, but that's now your favorite vacation spot, isn't 

Stewart: Yes. Right below that. 
Riess: Did your wife come with you? 

Stewart: No, my son did. He was seventeen then. That was very 
nice. There's a needle up there at the top, and you 
sit right on top of the thing. You had to climb up a 
ladder. We figured we could throw our olive pits 
about 2000 feet. We had to come down at night. That 
was too bad. Now they have a permanent look-out where 


Stewart: you can spend the night and everything. 

I learned a lot up there. I didn't discover any 
big fires. Actually, they gave me a look-out which 
wasn't a very critical point, up there in the high 
mountains. That was all right. I made my reports 
and laid out my distances and my angles on smokes and 
talked to the other lookouts occasionally. So I 
could handle the girl lookout all right, doing the 
story. I knew my stuff on that. 

Something interesting happened there. They came 
up to get me at the end of the week, and put a regular 
lookout back on. I came down and got in the truck and 
started going down to the town. We'd gone down the 
road about ten miles, and the driver said, "Say, did 
you know we dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese?" 
No, I hadn't heard about it! I think I was about the 
last man in the world to hear about the atomic bomb. 

Riess: That's a good test of your powers of ESP, if you 

thought you had any. You didn't sense anything strange 
had happened? 

Stewart: No. I was too busy dodging lightning and that sort 
of thing. 

That winter I didn't do too much on Fire. The 
next year I went out again in the summer, and had some 
more experience on fires. That's the summer I got 
they lost me. I didn't get lost. And the time the tree 
almost fell on me. Did I tell you about when I almost 
got killed in a fire? 

That's a good story. I think we ought to get a 
story in occasionally. I was on this fire detail, a 
terribly disorganized fire. I'd been up most of the 
night, and. I was tired. I was walking along a fire 
trail, with the fire burning on the right hand, over 
here. (You see how oriented I am?) The way I was 
walking, the fire was on the right hand side. And 
here was a big old snag, about a hundred feet tall, 
burning, a very dry old snag. It was right about twenty 
feet over in the fire. I knew it was dangerous. I 
knew enough about things to keep an eye on it. I 
walked along, I was up almost even with the tree, and 
there was a little trickle of water coming down from a 
spring. People had been walking along here, and it was 


Stewart: all muddied up. I went to take a long step, to get 
across. It wasn't really a Jump. And I was tired. 
As I went to do this step, my left foot, which is my 
Jumping foot, slipped in the mud, and I went right 
down flat on my face in the mud, and right then I 
heard the tree go over. Bangl I heard it crack. I 
couldn't move, you know, I couldn't possibly get up 
in time. Otherwise I could have run. The tree hit 
Just about fifteen feet ahead of me. 

That's the funny thing about life, though, you 
see. If I hadn't fallen, I might have been Just about 
where the tree hit! But then there would have been 
a chance to get out of the road, if I could have seen 
what was happening fast enough. It really didn't 
bother me in the slightest though. I didn't even 
think about it at the time very much. Then I realized 
later that I was close to it. 

Biess: Yes. That reminds me of Ben Lehman telling me about 
Professor Utter struck down by the eucalyptus. 

Stewart: Yes I I told him about this, and he said, "You're 

carrying insurance, because there couldn't possibly 
be two people in the English department killed by 
trees falling on them. " 

Riess: His story involved Utter stopping and getting a light 
for his cigarette, or something, which was the fatal 

Stewart: I don't know about that. It might be true. I was at 
that dinner with Utter. It was a windy night, a 
dinner at the Faculty Club. I went out the front door 
and he went put the back door. Again, that's a thing 
I've thought of often, Just the way how your fate is 
determined. You go out one door and the other guy 
goes out the other door. That's it. 

I didn't know about it of course until the next 
day. I didn't know the tree went over. I don't know 
about stopping to light a cigarette either. I never 
heard that" before. The thing I liked about the Utter 
story is that he put his arm up to protect his 
head, when he heard the tree go. And he was a good 
outdoors man. He would have reacted quickly. 

Riess: How fast does a tree go over? 



Stewart: It doesn't go as fast as all that, but of course a 
eucalyptus tree has branches on It, and he may not 
have got hit by the main trunk. Besides, he was In 
the dark. He couldn't have told what was happening. 
That would have been my trouble too, If I had been 
there on my feet. You wouldn't know which way to 
Jump. You might run right Into the thing. Funny, I 
can still remember that was a windy night. Poor Mrs. 
Utter had cancer at the time. She said, "Why can't 
there be trees for both of us?' 1 

Well, by the end of that summer I knew pretty 
much what I wanted to do with the story. It wasn't 
too hard to write. 

I sent It over to the Forest Service to check 
the technical details, and I was very happy that they 
only found two minute points which they thought I 
ought to change. One of them was the business about 
the two men working at the saw. They said that tree 
was too small, and wasn't a test for anybody. You 
had to have a bigger tree. The other one oh, the top 
of a sugar pine wasn't quite the way I said it was. 
I changed that. I thought that was very nice that I 
got into it far enough so I could really write to 
please the technical people. 

The story's in the Ponderosa Forest, you know. 
I invented the Ponderosa Forest. I shoved the Plumas 
Forest and Tahoe Forest apart and put the Ponderosa 
in between. The wife of one of the rangers up there 
in the Plumas Forest came to see me one day, and she 
said that people are always driving in there and 
saying, "What became of the Ponderosa Forest?" [laughter] 
"We were driving up and it said 'Tahoe Forest' and all 
of a sudden it changed to 'Plumas Forest.' We thought 
the Ponderosa Forest was in between." 

I want to show you something over here. I think 
I know where it is. It's my relief map. That's one 
of the few things I haven't given to the Bancroft 

[Can't find it.] Maybe I can show it to you when 
you come over again. It's Just a small relief map of 
the area. My son is very good at that sort of thing. 
It's based on the topographical map that I drew with 
all the lines. It's the same thing as a topographical 



Stewart: map put into actual relief. I probably should give 

it to The Bancroft. The interesting thing about this 
is that David Park did the coloring for me. So it's 
a David Park original. 

Riess: What is it made out of? 

Stewart: Just plaster. It's painted. It's more or less the 

color which you would get, you see, with the different 
kind of trees and so forth. 

Riess: In Fire you were using the name Judith Godoy a second 
time, weren't you? 

Stewart: Yes. 
Riess: Why? 

Stewart: Oh, I don't know. Lots of authors have used the same 

character name. She was supposed to be the descendant, 
the great-great-granddaughter or something, of Judith 
in East of the Giants. 

Riess: Did you ever say anything about her grand-parentage? 

Stewart: Yes, Just in kind of a slanting way. She told him, 
[Dave] after he carried her off from the tower, she 
told him that this had happened to her ancestress who 
had been carried away on a horse. 

Actually, some of those people in Fire, the 
professor she worked with at the university, for 
Instance, were friends of mine. I've done that 
several times. It's a dangerous thing. Sometimes 
people don't like it. 

For instance, the Hart's rugs get spoiled in 
Earth Abides. Nobody is there to take care of the 
overflow of water. Now, they're always talking about 
their rugs! Oh, these have been very small things 
actually. I did more in Fire than in any other book. 
There's a character out of Storm in Fire, too, Johnny 
Hartley. And then I used myself in Fire too, the one 
who was collecting information on it. I just told 
all of the different kind of people who got sucked 
into the fire business and there was this man who was 
collecting material on the fire. 

- . 


Rless: The connective things seem to remind the reader that 
the author is there and really in charge of the whole 
story. I wonder how you respond to that idea. 

Stewart: Well, I don't think that in my books, at least, the 
author is there or not. The only time that I really 
stepped out from behind the mask was in Sheep Rook, 
and that was Just at the very end. 

I've gone through several stages in that sort 
of thing. In my early novels I kept very strictly 
out of the picture, completely out. In East of the 
Giants for instance. Then as I went along, I moved 
rather in the other direction. In Storm and Fire 
the author is pretty strictly out of it I should say. 
Then as I worked along, I gradually came to feel more 
and more, this is a sort of convention. After all, 
the reader knew you were there all the time, and you 
weren't really fooling anybody. So I sometimes made 
use of it in the other direction. 

Riess: I mean the sense of the work being under somebody's 
control, that there's nothing that's accidental, in 
the sense that life flows along in an accidental 

Stewart: Well, don't a lot of writers like to give the other 
impression, that this is outside their control, that 
they are not in control of the book, don't you think? 

Riess: I felt that you Just decided to tell a little bit 

about what you knew, which was probably everything. 

Stewart: Yes. Well, in a sense that's true. In a sense I knew 
a great deal more about the situation than I wrote 
down. I had all these images of what the place was 
like, and all that, and could have gone into any amount 
of detail. Partly, those were memories, of course, of 
places I've been, in fires, and so forth. 


Stewart: Do you want to bring this up short and put in some 
direction now? 

Riess: Well, we can go on with the sort of chronological 
thing with your books, or we could break from that 
and I could ask you ten out of maybe a hundred idle 
questions that I have. 

Stewart: All right, it would give us a little change. 

Riess: [laughing] Idle questions department. Tell me about 
Hollywood in 19^7- What was that experience like, and 
what did you do there? 

Stewart: I guess that was the time I went down to Disney's. 

I'd been down to Hollywood a couple of times. I think 
that was the only extended time I went down there I 
stayed a week that time. I never knew what they wanted 
out of me, and I don't think they did either. It was 
a typical Hollywood experience. I sat in a nice office 
there and read a book most of the time, and once in a 
while somebody would talk to me. I never did find out 
what they wanted. It was Just the same old line, you 
know. They could pick somebody's brain and that sort 
of thing, and I think they were probably pleased enough 
with what they got from me. They didn't pay me too 
much money anyway. 

Riess: Were you working on a script for Storm? 

Stewart: No. No. I don't know what it had to do with, whether 
I didn't show them what they wanted, or what they were 
looking for, and they Just sent me back home again. It 
was pleasant enough. 

Riess: You weren't there long enough to accumulate all the 
bad feelings about Hollywood that some writers have? 

Stewart: No. I can see how you would very rapidly, though. I 
had great respect for Walt Disney. I remember having 
lunch with him, the two of us, one day. I can't 
remember whether it was that trip, or another time I 
was down there. But I never had any special contacts 
with Hollywood. It's never meant anything to me 

Riess: Did you do much Sunday book reviewing, or reviewing 
in general? 


Stewart: I've never done a great deal of reviewing. The New 
York Times had me on their list for a while, and I 
did a certain number of books, nonfiction. I told 
them I wasn't very much interested in reviewing novels, 
I never did any very big reviews. That only went on 
for five years or so, then like so many things, you 
know, personality changes, or something like that, 
they forget about that reviewer and they go on to 
another reviewer. I just sort of eased out of it. 
It never meant anything very much to me. It was a 
nice connection to have. 

Then I reviewed for the Chronicle occasionally. 
Joe Jackson would give me some kind of special book. 
He, of course, was a very close friend of mine, and I 
think he handled me very smartly on that sort of thing, 
He didn't Just give me routine reviews. It would be 
some unusual type of thing, to do, Just occasionally. 
It worked out very well. 

Riess: That's a funny thing to say, that somebody handled 
you "smartly." 

Stewart: Well, I am difficult to handle. No, I think that's 

essentially modesty on my part, isn't it, to say that 
he handled me well? I wasn't such a good prospect 
that he couldn't help handling me well. 

One book I did was the first biography of Scott 
Fitzgerald. He knew I knew Fitzgerald, or had known 
him. I did a good review on that, too. Then he gave 
me the Century Dictionary of Names, a great big three- 
volume work which I still have, sitting right here. 
It's one of the few books I brought along in the move 
over here. 

I did other miscellaneous reviews here and there, 
but I was never really a regular reviewer. 

Bless: I have in capital letters to ask you about a quote 
that I think you used in the English department 
history, "No man is as simple as his legend." Would 
you apply that to yourself? 

Stewart: Well, I can't say I know what my legend is, or whether 
I have one, or how much of one I have. So I don't 
see what I can say about that. 






Stewart : 

You said once that you felt that people expected 
certain things of you. 

Well, they may, but I don't know exactly what they 
expect from me. I can imagine things that I might 
like to have them expect of me, but I don't know that 
that would be of much pertinency. I think every man 
likes to think of himself as a strange and wonderful 

In 1922 you went to Michigan to teach, 
year in Michigan like? 

What was your 

I got a lot of experience there. That was my first 
real full teaching year. So I learned a lot, 
accomplished quite a lot that year. Nothing like so 
much, though, as that master's year at Berkeley where 
so much was opened up. Of course, being my first 
teaching year my nose was pretty well to the grindstone, 
I wasn't doing much experimentation. I was getting 

Would you tell how you met your wife? 

Well, I remember where I met her. The president's wife 
gave a tea, and I think it was pretty good that I 
went to it. I don't remember exactly how or why I 
did. I went with another instructor. 

The wife of one of the English professors whom I 
had met, and who was being nice to me, said, "I'd like 
you to meet " (I don't know what she said, "Miss 
Burton," or whatever she said.) So I looked across 
the room and there she was, and I went over and was 
introduced. I can't say that I fell in love at that 
moment, or she with me, but that was the time we met. 
I think she had a pink dress on. She might have had. 

She remembers about it too.* She thought I was 
awful stiff. I think this lady introduced me as 
"Dr. Stewart," because I wasn't a professor. Ted has 
never been able to stand that title for some reason. 
To this day, she hates anybody introducing me as "Dr." 

*The lady had said to her, "There's a new instructor 
in the English Department. I want you to be nice to 
him." (She has been, for a good many years.) [G.S.] 


Stewart: I don't prefer it, but I don't get irritated about it. 
Riess: So, you married the president's daughter? 

Stewart: The boss's daughter. She was home for a year then. 

She hadn't been very well. She had gone to Vassar for 
a year. She was everywhere, started out at the 
University of Minnesota, and when her father came to 
Michigan she came down then, and went to Vassar for 
a year. Then she didn't go back to Vassar. She 
spent this year I don't think she went to college at 
all, she was helping her mother around the place, 
running the social events. 

That was a year in between for her, and that's 
when she got engaged. We were engaged for a year. She 
went on and finished up her work at the University of 
Michigan. I don't think we have anything very 
startling to recount about that. 

Riess: Did you go back to marry her? 

Stewart: Yes, and we had a big do with the wedding. It was 
really a Roman holiday. We were married in the 
Clemens Library. It's like the Bancroft Library. 
It was a nice new building, the way The Bancroft may 
be a year or so from now. It happened to be Just 
next to the president's house, so they had a canopy 
across. They invited practically everybody. Among 
the celebrities came Henry Pord, out from Detroit. 
And we had the ceremony in the library. That was 
very fitting after all, for me. [laughing] Then we 
went back to the house and had a reception in the big 
president's house. 

And as I say, Henry Pord was the chief notable, 
even more so than the groom, [laughter] He had his 
social secretary send us a set of Conrad as a wedding 
present, very beautifully bound, which was signed by 
Conrad in the first volume. And so we had one of the 
bridesmaids staked out to get Henry Pord to sign it 
too, and he did. It looked like the signature on the 
old Model T, exactly. We had that in our house there 
in Berkeley. We collected two or three more signatures 
on it. Carl Sandburg signed it once. We sold that, 
when we broke the library up. David McGee, the 
bookseller, bought it, and I don't know what he did 
with it. 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 

As I say, we had a great big wedding, and a lot 
of wedding presents, some of which we still have, as 
a matter of fact. 

Where did you go on your honeymoon? 

Well, we came to California. We had a wild trip in 
an old Studebaker car. There were some terrible 
roads. We came out to Glacier Park. From there we 
swung north into Canada to get across the mountains, 
and then ended up with some terrible roads in Oregon, 
and a trip down the then fairly rudimentary Redwood 
Highway. There we broke a differential, and had to 
spend three days camped out near a primitive roadside 
garage while they sent in to Eureka or some place for 
a new part. We finally made it through to Berkeley, 
and to Pasadena, where my parents lived then. 

Were your parents living then? 

Yes. They came back for the wedding. My father was 
about seventy-five then. He lived till he was ninety, 

Well, it sounds like quite a do I 

Oh, it was, they made 700 chicken salads or something 
like that. It could have set us up in housekeeping 
very nicely with what that wedding cost, couldn't it? 

Especially if you had saved all the chicken salad. 

Yes, we would have eaten that for about a year! 

Do you, or did you, belong to social or professional 
clubs much? 

I was never a very great Joiner of things, 
to more things right now than I ever have, 

What about the American Names Society? 

I belong 

There I think I'm down as one of the charter members, 
I didn't have much to do with actually organizing it. 
I didn't think it was a very good time for it, as a 
matter of fact. That was Just about the time of the 
Korean War, and I think it had a hard time getting 
going. It did get organized. I proved to have not 
enough faith in the thing. 


Stewart: I was one of the early presidents of it, and I 
did a good Job I think on that, because I rescued it 
from bankruptcy. I tried my hand at working up a 
little bit of money, and I got it all right. I 
figured that I hated to take over an organization that 
fell down on its obligations. You see, we were taking 
the money, the subscriptions for the year. I figured 
it wouldn't amount to an awful lot of money, a few 
hundred dollars, and if necessary I could get stuck 
with that, it wouldn't ruin me. So I enjoyed working 
it up. I got a lot of people to Join as associate 
members, and give $25. I got a lot more subscriptions 
one place and another by a little publicity. I got it 
back on its feet. I was very happy about that. It's 
still going. 

Riess: Do people who have Just a hobby or curiosity about 
names Join? 

Stewart: There are a good many of those I think, yes. I keep 
getting letters from people about names, on account 
of my books, and when I reply I always send an 
invitation to Join the society. I get a certain 
amount of them but I don't know for how long maybe 
they Just Join for one year. I never follow up or 
find out. After all, that's the way an organization 
lives, by getting new people in. 

Riess: Did you belong to University groups such as the Arts 
Club and the English Club? 

Stewart: I never belonged to the Arts Club. I never really 
belonged to the English Club. I was taken into it 
Just about the time it folded up, so I can't say 
that I ever did anything with that. It had quite a 
long, good career, and then, like all those student 
organizations, something happened to it. It got out 
of step with the times or something and it Just folded 
up. That didn't mean anything to me. 

Riess: How about the Bohemian Club? Are you a Bohemian? 

Stewart: No, I'm not, but they've got me up for membership 

now. I think I'll Join it if I get a chance, because 
living over here now it's right down the street here 
and I know a lot of people in it.* I was approached 

*Joined, December, 1971, G.S. 

Stewart: before, years ago, but I didn't take it up, because 
when we lived In Berkeley there wasn't any point 
In belonging to It. 

Actually, I haven't belonged to anything very 
much. The Faculty Club was, again, a professional 
business. [Like the Modern Language Association.] 
One day I was eating there and Bob Erode stuck his 
head in the door, to see who was In that room. He 
came around and said, "Could I nominate you for the 
board of the Faculty Club?" I said, "Well, what's 
it mean?" And so forth. I said, "All right. I 
won't be elected, anyway." So I was elected. I got 
Interested in that. 

I did a good Job on that, I think. I was on the 
board for three years, vice-president or something. 
Then they elected me president and I was president for 
three years. I really devoted myself to trying to 
build up a little morale and spirit in the Faculty 
Club, which was very much run down at that time. I 
think people appreciated what I did, because there 
are still people who call me Mr. President, [laughing] 
That's very nice. I appreciated that. That was a nice 
time, being president. I worked pretty hard at it. 
Actually, that was all when I was emeritus, when I was 

Riess: It seemed to be about 1963 to 1967. 

Stewart: Yes, that, I guess, was it. 

Riess: Do you think it's growing as an influence? 

Stewart: I think it's come over it's hardest years. It seems 

to be doing better now. I think it's going all right. 

Riess: Did it have an old Golden Age? 
Stewart: Yes, it did. 
Riess: When was that? 

Stewart: Oh, I think around it began in 1902 I think, in a 

small way, and it came along. I think it was a great 
institution for the faculty. Then about 1930 It kind 
of began to go downhill, I think. I don't know. 
Anyway, along after the fifties it was in not such 
good shape. The great question now is whether you can 


Stewart: get the younger men to Join it. The younger men 

simply don't go into it. It's become an old men's 
olub, which is very bad. I worked on that quite a 
bit, but didn't get very far, trying to get some 
interest among the younger men. Now they are 
amalgamating with the Women's Faculty Club and they 
are still working on their problem with the younger 
men. One problem of course is the fact that the 
faculty of the campus has become so big, it's hard 
to focus on any one part, one point. 

fiiess: You mean there are departmental clubs that people are 
going to? 

Stewart: I don't think clubs exactly. A lot of them eat out 
of bags, which of course is cheaper, and they can 
get together as a group in an office. And you have 
the Golden Bear restaurant at North Gate. That seems 
to be something of a problem. 

In what you wanted to call the "Golden Days" 
there, after lunch there would be a big gathering of 
people in that room which is now the Howard Room. 
They'd be playing cards and cursing and reading 
magazines and playing chess, and the next room was 
full of billiard players. There was a real gathering 
of spirits there, after lunch. 

When they remodeled the club, they got that room 
all shifted around, and the only lounge is upstairs. 
The thing Just went absolutely dead. It was a curious 
kind of failure in the people who remodeled, the club. 
They didn't realize they were killing the spirit of 
the place at the same time they were remodeling it. 
Now, they are going to remodel it again, and I think 
they have that in mind. They're going to try to get 
a gathering place. 

Hi ess: Speaking of the faculty doing things together, do you 
think crises help bring the University together? 

Stewart: Well, yes and no. You take a thing like the oath 

controversy. It brought certain people together and 
other people apart. There were a lot of enmities 
developed. In my own person I know that. I think on 
the whole I came out of the oath controversy in a 
better way than most people did. I didn't suffer any 
great tragedy out of it. The oath really broke a 


Stewart: certain number of people, put them under terrific 
strain. They never reconstituted themselves, I 
think. I could name names, but I don't need to. 

On the other hand, I came out of it in pretty 
good shape. Doing the Year of the Oath was a very 
fine thing. I worked with about seventy people on 
that. That gives me ties around the campus you 
wouldn't ever imagine. I was the man they were 
following there at that one point. You don't forget 
it. I don't. 

Riess: So people may draw together around an issue, or come 
to life around an issue. 

Stewart: That was one thing I had in mind when I undertook to 
write that book. It was a therapeutic thing. It 
gave people something to work at. Whether it was a 
good thing or not was really not so much the problem. 
They gave themselves up to this, and I think it was 
very good for the people who got involved in that. 

It was a very interesting thing. I worked 
terribly hard on that, Just terribly hard, because I 
did the whole thing in sixty days, and kept my teaching 
going at the same time. I had a whole organization 
chief of staff, and a sort of inner council of five 
people who met to plan the higher strategy of it. I 
had little groups scattered around campus working on 
this or that. Sometimes they didn't do anything that 
amounted to anything, but at least they were working 
at something. 

Bless: That's interesting. I hadn't realized it was happening 
so simultaneously. When did it start, exactly, in 
terms of your sixty days? 

Stewart: Well, it started about the middle of April that year. /?_r 
I probably have the date down somewhere (April 4, 1^66-). 
I handed the manuscript in in sixty days and then made 
arrangements for publication. I had some luck on that. 

Riess: Did you have to get it cleared with anybody? 
Stewart: No. Only my own group. 

Then there was a question of who was going to 
sign it. I didn't want to sign it by myself. I 
thought it would be better if somebody else signed it 



Stewart: with me, but I couldn't find anybody who would sign 
It with me. I had written nearly all of It, so In a 
way I didn't blame them, signing something they 
hadn't written. But after all, It was a kind of 
Joint effort. I couldn't get anybody to sign It, so 
I Just went and signed It myself. 

It's an Interesting story about the publication 
of that In a way. It's a long, continued story. 
Howard Cady was out here then. I knew him slightly. 
He was the West Coast representative for Doubleday. 
Random House wouldn't take it. That was one of the 
things I got sore at Random House about. So I got 
in touch with Howard Cady. As I say, I knew him Just 

Riess: It was too hot a thing for them? 

Stewart: Oh, they couldn't make any money out of it. They 

thought they couldn't. Then Howard said he thought 
Doubleday would do it. He'd recommend it. He fixed 
it up. So Dcubleday published it. It was an 
unsatisfactory book in many ways, because it had to 
be done right in the middle of things. We couldn't 
really write an ending to it. The controversy was 
still going on. 

Then years later I was able to repay that to 
Howard Cady, because I saved his neck on one occasion. 
That was interesting: One day I got a letter from 
the International Nickel Company, from a local general 
manager or something on the West Coast, and he said, 
"Would you be willing to have a talk with Mr. So-and-So, 
our vice-president?" Well, it was nothing to me. I 
said, "Sure. I don't mind having a talk with the 
vice-president of International Nickel. I don't know 
what I can do for him, but...." [laughter] 

So pretty soon they fixed it up, and the vice- 
president came to see me in my office down in Dwinelle. 
Turned out they wanted a book written about the company. 
'They didn't offer it to me to write it, but they wanted 
some advice on this. Would I see the president? "Yes. 
I don't mind seeing the president." This was the vice- 
president, who came all the way to ask me if I would 
see the president. I said, "I don't mind seeing the 
president." He said, "We'll pay your expenses back 
to New York." 

Stewart: I said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I'm going 

to be in New York in about a month. I don't need any 
expenses." They said, "Well, what fee would you 
charge?" I said, "Oh, I don't know." He said, "How 
about two hundred dollars?" I said, "Oh sure, that's 
enough. " 

I thought I'd get lunch out of it too, he would 
take me to lunch. So we went to New York, and I 
saw the president. It was a hot day down there and 
he took me to lunch, and I got two hundred dollars. 
I recommended Howard Cady as the man they should see. 
(I guess it happened at that time that Howard got 
fired. He really got a very tough deal. ) Howard 
got himself in a good break with International Nickel. 
They took him on for a temporary Job to rewrite all 
the manuals, and Howard said it saved his neck. He 
had four children and he was in a bad way, temporarily. 
So it was a very nice thing to happen ten years later. 
You never can tell when you're going to get a chance 
to repay a debt. 

I kept in touch with that vice-president of 
International Nickel for a long time, [laughter] In 
fact, he used to come out here and take my wife and 
me to dinner. I haven't seen him in a long time. I 
don't know what's happened to him. 

They would have given me that book to write if 
I'd made any gesture about it at all. Howard said 
they wanted me to do it, but I didn't want to do it. 
I could have made $50,000. They paid the man $50,000 
who wrote it. There's money in those corporation 
books. Because in a corporation's budget that's 
nothing, you see. 

Riess: You probably would have gotten interested in it, too. 
Stewart: I probably would, yes. 


INTERVIEW VII, Earth Abides, Year of the Oath, 
Sheep Rock, U.S. *K), American Ways of Life, Years 
of the City, Pickett's Charge, California Trail, 
Good Lives ; premonitions, clubs, aging. (Recorded 
October 26, 1971) 

Riess: What was the genesis for Earth Abides? 

Stewart: I don't know exactly what gave me the original idea, 
but I'd had it for a long time before I wrote it. 
After I finished Fire I very soon started in to work 
on that. 

I don't know whether I told you about going 
around to interview various people around the 
University. That was one way I got my Information 
about what would happen. I would go to see a man 
who knew about sheep, and ask what would happen to 
PG&E and all those things. It was very interesting. 
Most of these people were very skilled people, but 
they were generally not very imaginative people. They 
knew what they knew, and when you asked them to 
project this into the future, it was very startling 
to them. They had never thought of things like that, 
you know, "What would happen if there weren't any 
men around?" 

They usually were interested in it, and they'd 
come right back. I got used to the formula. I'd 
ask them, "What would happen in that case? Without 
any men?" They'd say, "Oh, yes, we'll tell you about 
that." Then they'd start out and say, "This would 
happen." Then they'd go on talking for about two 
minutes, and then they'd say, "Well, maybe not. 
Because there would be a secondary effect there. Maybe 
something else would happen." And they'd get on to 
thinking, and in a minute something else would come 
up, and in another five minutes they'd say, "Well, we 
really don't know what would happen." 


Stewart: That was rather nice for me, because It gave me 
a free hand, in some respects. Sometimes I differed 
with them, actually. This man on sheep thought that 
sheep would survive In spite of being such helpless 
creatures, because he said there were so many shep 
that before the coyotes could get in and kill them 
all off , there would be some more lambs bred , and 
In the course of a few generations, they would adapt 
and become wild again, so you really would have sheep 
going on. I took it the other way, that the sheep 
would not survive. 

I went to see the same man in PG&E with whom I 
had worked in Storm quite a bit. He was their chief 
engineer, I think. He's a very fine specialist. 
Again, not a man of imagination, particularly. I 
asked him, "What would happen to your system if there 
were no men around?" He gave me a long look and said, 
"You know, I thought I'd considered everything possible 
to this company, but I never considered what would 
happen if there weren't any men around." [laughter] 

He gave a long breath, and said, "Well, it would 
be about this way: it would run for about a month. 
Parts of it for longer." He knew it so well he could 
tell. Then he said, "It wouldn't all go out at once, 
Bang! It would go out In different sections, shut 
off. Every section that shut off would give more 
power to the ones that were left. Parts of it would 
keep going for quite a while, until at the end it 
would fade out." 

I pretty much used that in the book, although I 
heightened the effect in the end, and had it going out 
just while Ish was looking at it. Obviously, because 
that's the way I had to express it in a novel. 

Of course I started out with Wendell Stanley's 
quotation there, and that gave me something to work on.* 

*"If a killing type of virus strain should suddenly 
arise by mutation... It could, because of the rapid 
transportation in which we indulge nowadays, be 
carried to the far corners of the earth and cause the 
deaths of millions of people." W.M. Stanley, in 
Chemical and Engineering News. Dec. 22, 19^9 


Stewart: I had the Idea before I had read that passage, but 
that gave me a fine quotation for the beginning. 

Riess: This was a pretty new kind of thinking for those 

Stewart: Well, yes. They've done more of it now. There have 
been whole organizations, you know, that have given 
themselves up to speculating what's going to happen 
in the future. It was much newer then. It was a 
rather new skill for most people. Their feelings 
they can't think that way. 

I talked to the people at the bridge too. They 
were quite interesting, the bridge authorities. They 
knew exactly where the bridge was going to wear out. 
They said the place where the water splashes on it 
rusts already. It's a very slow business and it's 
not a serious matter. It can be fixed up. But if 
there were no men around, it eventually would go to 
pieces, down there. But even so, it would be a very 
long time before it went. A matter of many years. 

Riess: This was after the atomic bomb, but this isn't the 
way people had been thinking? 

Stewart: Well, of course I had got the idea a long time before 
the atomic bomb. And I didn't want the atomic bomb 
in my story, for obvious reasons, because this would 
Just blow everything up, the animals along with 
everything else. This isn't that story, my story. 

Riess: Maybe that accounts for people not having thought of 
isolated things carrying on. If they had thought In 
those years of devastation, they would have thought 
in terms of total devastation. 

Stewart: That would have been true, but actually, you see, I 

was working on this such a short time after the atomic 
bomb, they should have been thinking of these things 
before that. You see, the atomic bomb was 19^5 and 
I was working on this in 19^8. Practically the same 

I think, as I said before, the story becomes 
really the story of the rehabilitation, so to me it 
is not a particularly depressing story, not a disaster 





3 tewart : 


You oertalnly went easy on what happened to the 

Yes. Well, it's one of my feelings anyway that all 
this talk, people expressing concern over what's 
going to happen to the human race I don't think 
they really care. The human race as an abstraction 
is not really Interesting, you see. It's the 
individual human beings you're attached to, and if 
you consider, they'll all be dead in a hundred years 
anyway. I don't think most people really know what 
they're thinking about when they talk about the 
human race. Faceless thing, really. It's the 

individual people that matter, 
idealistic enough. 

Maybe I'm Just not 

One of the ideas I like to play with is that 
there may have been a superior human race in the 
past. There's no reason why there shouldn't have 
been. There's no reason why we should be the best 
there ever was. When you look at some of the achieve 
ments, like the development of language that's Just 
an incredible thing. It strikes me that there were 
some real genius types somewhere along the line there 
that did a lot of things. 

Within our history? 

Not within our history, no, but within the range of, 
say, anthropology, the skeletons we get, and so forth. 
Although we may not have found the right ones. 

Oh. That sounds like you. 

Well, I'm not talking in mystical terms. I don't 
mean something that existed a million, ten million 
years ago. I mean, say, in the range of a 100,000 
years, something like that. 

What did Ish and Em, in Earth Abides, stand for? 

Well, I really explained that pretty well in the book, 
the fact that we had to have an observer, and Ish 
was the observer, with that curious intellect, and Em 
is the figure of courage that holds them all together. 
I have a tremendous fixation on courage, as you may 
have noticed. I believe that's the basic virtue. If 
you don't have courage, you don't have anything. 


Riess: So courage has nothing to do with intellect? 
Stewart: No. 

Riess: But the conflict, in the book, had to do with which 
would survive. 

Stewart: Yes. It was very important there. It wasn't so much 
intellect as the mechanisms through which intellect 
is working. Intellect would be there Just the same, 
you know. You wouldn't breed that out very well. 
It's the tools of intellect that can't be preserved, 
and become useless. At least I think that's the way 
it is. 

Riess: In terms of a "good life" do you think Ish had what 
you later were thinking of when you wrote Good Lives? 

Stewart: I think he did, pretty well, yes. I really do. I 
never thought of it exactly in those terms, but I 
think he did. He had disappointments, as everybody 
has, and failures, as everybody has. My people in 
Good Lives had failures, all of them, nearly all of 
them, and hard times, but they came through. I think 
Ish has that. Yes. And he dies, I think, rather 

Riess: Reviewers wrote comments such as "Stewart's faith 

in man's destiny" and "a lesson for the human race." 
I wonder what the lesson for the human race was that 
they were talking about? 

Stewart: I think courage, probably. To keep going even under 
the threat of the atomic bomb. Which had nothing to 
do with the book, but which was inherent in the times, 

There were one or two bad reviews of Earth Abides. 
Did you come across them? There was one woman who 
thought it was terrible, and I was trying to make it 
out. In the first place, I think she was a Catholic. 
I think that situation bothered her somewhat, that 
the Catholic Church hadn't survived. Once you broke 
the apostolic succession, you couldn't go ahead! 
[laughter] I think the present church probably could, 
but the church back in those days couldn't have done 
that. I don't quite see why she did. She said, "Where 
are all those wonderful engineers and men that went 
out and fought the storm?" Well, obviously they were 


Stewart: dead, that's where they were I 

I don't think it was a very important review. 
I Just thought you might be interested to come across 

Riess: I should think people might have wished for more 
detail in the book. 

Stewart: The trouble there is a book can only stand so much 
detail. You smother a novel if you start putting 
everything in. You've got these things you can't 
follow up. It gets to be an encyclopedia. 

Riess: Actually, here's one sort of querulous review. "Ish 
was confronted with moral and psychological problems, 
on the elementary level, and George Stewart is not 
altogether happy in dealing with them. . .happier with 
natural processes." 

Stewart: Yes. Well, that's probably true enough. It was a 
harder book to write, in some ways. 

Riess: What has been done about filming it? 

Stewart: Well, it's under contract with an option, right now. 
[see p. ^5] Lots of people have played around with 
it, yes. Then On the Beach came out, and that, in a 
way, killed off that idea of that kind of book. That 
was a big movie, you remember. That killed it off 
for a long time, but it has come back, and it's 
actually under option. I had an inquiry about picture 
rights on Ordeal by Hunger too, Just the other day. 
Called from Los Angeles. I referred them to Houghton- 
Mifflin. They buy up these options pretty cheaply 
and pretty readily, you know, and that doesn't mean 
too much. I wouldn't be surprised if they sold the 
option on that. 

Riess: The next thing you got into was the oath, and the 
book, Year of the Oath. 

Stewart: I could tell you something about that whole experience 
from my personal participation, though I'm sure the 
project has a tremendous amount of testimony on that 

Riess: Well, nobody seems to be able to agree on what 

happened. Why is there so much confusion, from that 


Riess: very time down to the present? 

Stewart: Probably the reason there was so much confusion is 
that it was a highly charged, emotional issue, and 
it became more and more so. Starting out rather 
simply, it became more and more complicated, as if 
some bad genius were directing the whole thing. It 
developed into personal antipathies, some of which 
never died out. It went on that way. 

I was not, at the beginning, or even any place, 
nearly as deeply involved emotionally as a lot of 
people were. People like Loewenburg, for Instance, 
were tremendously stirred by the whole thing. I think 
Caldwell was never the same man afterwards. I knew 
him extremely well. And there were quite a few of 
them, some of whom remained as non-signers; others 
signed, eventually. 

Of course I considered the question of whether I 
should not sign it. I finally decided that it wasn't 
my bag, as they would say these days, that I was 
really not enough committed on the matter to hang out 
as a non-signer. I made that decision, and it's very 
good to make a decision, I think. Then I decided I 
would do my part. I would do this book. And so I 
did. As I said last time, I consciously realized this 
book was a very good therapeutic project, not only 
for me, but for other people involved in it. I think 
it worked out that way. It helped people out a lot. 

If some people had come in and worked on it, 
instead of sitting around, they might have been better 
off too. Anyway, it went through. It was one of the 
most concentrated Jobs I've ever worked on. I think 
I've told a little about that. So, I did manage to 
get it across. And as I have to say, it's not much 
of a book, because it was written before the thing 
was over. We didn't know if it was over or not. I 
suppose in some ways it's an even better book for 
that reason, because it's very much involved. It was 
written right in that time, and there are very few 
examples of books like that that are written right at 
the time. 

Bless: I guess people felt comfortable working on that, 
getting that objectivity. 

Stewart: Yes. Yes, I think they did. I still have that personal 
relationship to a lot of the people. 








So they must have decided that they could trust you. 
These are people you hadn't known particularly, 
before ? 

Most of them I had known, yes, but not necessarily 
very well. The English department was very heavily 
involved, as you would expect. 

Yes, why is that? 

It's the same old phrase, "the spearhead of the 
humanities," they are that group. They're the ones 
who see things from a humanistic point of view, I 
think, more than any other department. 

More than history? 

Oh yes. Much more than history. History has tended 
more to go over to the social sciences, and in a 
sense has lost the humanistic touch. I shouldn't say 
that out loud, I suppose, but it seems to be true. 
Philosophy has got into a specialty, and the foreign 
languages of course are linguistic, primarily, rather 
than humanistic. 

You get lots of individual people where that 
doesn't apply, but to take the mass, I think the 
English department supplies far more than its share, 
and, interestingly enough, the speech department is 
somewhat the same. 

Had people been spending any time thinking about 
academic freedom before 

No, not very much. I think that's interesting, 
because in a sense you don't have academic freedom 
when you start thinking about it. You've got to be 
in a state of innocence, so to speak, to have it, 
because when you begin thinking, "This is my academic 
freedom, I'm going to have to save it," well, then of 
course you don't have academic freedom. You're 
fighting for it, perhaps, but you don't really have 

No, we didn't have much problem about that, 
before. I don't think we were particularly radical. 
I don't think we said things that we might have said 
at times. There was one matter, you know, in 19*K), 
I think when the regents put in their ant 1- communist 


Stewart : 





rule. That went down with scarcely a murmur, whereas 
now that would be a big Issue. I know I was worried 
about It, and I made some gestures, talking to some 
of the older men, but I remember they didn't get tied 
up In It. It seemed to me a bad thing at the time. 
I don't know how many other people felt that way, 
but I didn't get anywhere on It. 

What was the Issue that got you involved at the 
University of Nevada? 

Well, one thing that I did undertake when I did not 
sign the oath I more or less propagated the saying 
about "Sign, stay, and fight," which was a good slogan, 
you see, at that time. Because once you don't sign, 
and get thrown out, why, you're dead. And you can't 
do anything. If all the men who objected more or less 
to the oath had gone out of the university, you would 
have had a conservative, dead University left. And 
so I was rather quick to take up something else which 
could be done. 

This University of Nevada business: some 
particular person got me Interested in it, and it 
seemed a place where we could do something. So I got 
this petition, or letter, circulated. We got it signed 
pretty well. I knew how to organize one of these 
things now, so I had the thing worked out pretty well. 
We got quite a good lot of signatures, and we mobilized 
Stanford, and Pomona, and, I think, UCLA. We got quite 
a movement going, and I thought it had some Influence. 
I think it bucked up the people at Nevada considerably, 
which of course was the reason for doing it. 

It didn't last very long. It was Just, so to 
speak, a quickie. But it was useful, I think. 

You say you know how to do one of these things, 
means you know how to mobilize signatures? 


Well, sort of organize things, get people working 
for it. And of course I knew the campus. I knew 
where you could get things done. Incidentally, the 
most trouble we had on that petition, or letter, was 
the zoology department. It was their man who was in 
trouble up there. He was actually a Ph.D. from their 
department. And we couldn't get any signatures out 
of zoology. I think, Just because they were, at 
that time at least, an extremely conservative, non- 



Stewart: committed group. I remember saying to the man (Jim 
Lynch) who was working as my chief of staff on it, 
"We've got to get somebody from zoology." 

He, being a very good man, went down and had to 
do a regular secret service Job. He came back and 
said, "First I got in touch with the secretary and 
asked her. She said, 'Well this department won't 
sign anything, but you might get this man, and if 
you get him you might get this other fellow. ' " So 
he went around to these offices and he got this man. 
He got a couple of signatures, so it didn't look too 
bad. It went up to Nevada. 

Riess: Chief of staff? 

Stewart: Yes, somebody who can do the leg work and is willing 
to do it. You have to have one man who is able to 
sit and think about the thing a little. 

Riess: Do you think if you hadn't done the oath book that 
anybody else would have? 

Stewart: I don't think anybody else would have. There was one 
man who started to, a student. In fact he had been 
working on the Year of the Oath. We didn't have 
students generally on that, but this fellow wanted to 
do things so much that we said, "Sure, you can do 
something." He got discontented with working on this 
Job too. He pulled out and said he was going to do 
his own book, but he never got anything done. 

We sent out a questionnaire to the faculty that 
had some interesting responses on it. I had all those 
questionnaires. And one reason I have a scunner on 
David Gardner was that he didn't bring back all that 
stuff he borrowed when he was doing his book.* 

Riess: "Scunner?" 

Stewart: That's an old saying. S-c-u-n-n-e-r, I suppose, though 
I never saw it spelled. It means I'm slightly 

*David P. Gardner, The California Oath Controversy. 
Berkeley, 196?. 


Rless: I remember oase histories at the back. Were they 
from the questionnaire? 

Stewart: Yes. I tried to do the book to keep it on a kind of 
personal basis. It was a good idea to get away from 
the social science approach, and try to put it in a 
personal manner. You get accused of being sentimental 
in a case of that sort, but maybe you are. 

Riess: Speaking of issues, was your interest in the Vigilantes 
all of a piece with this? 

Stewart: No, I don't think so. The interest in the Vigilantes 
went back a long, long, way, clear to 1920. I had 
done a course with Chauncey Wells that composition 
course in which I had the general background of 
California to work on, and I got into the Vigilantes 
at that time, particularly the newspaper reports of 
1851 which are terribly fascinating things to me 
still. And way back in early 1930 I had tried to do 
a book on the Vigilantes of 1851. I tried to do it 
Just from newspaper clippings. Actually some publisher 
was going to publish that, but he never did. I think 
he went broke or something. Some second-string 

The thing still kept with me. I had this big 
pile of stuff on it, and finally I used it. I'm not 
sure it was a good idea. It wasn't a book that 
interested people a great deal. But that was a long 
time in the background. It didn't have anything to 
do with the oath, r Committee of Vigilance, 1964] 

Riess: After the oath book you wrote Sheep Rook, which seemed 
different from all your other things. 

Stewart: Well, it is and it Isn't. It's different in some 
respects, but It still has the theme of ecology I 
mean ecology in the older sense, that is, all the 
things that go to make up a place. 

Riess: But now there's a sort of troubled soul, it seems to 

me, in the middle of all that. A real sense of a man 

Stewart: Yes. Yes. A man trying to understand it. I don't 

think that I'm that man, though. I think that's pretty 
objectively conceived. I'm the other man in the book, 
you know, the man who goes out across the flats in 
the oar. 




Stewart : 





Stewart : 

The other fellow is the observer, who is a 
character all right. His soul is troubled, no 
question about that. But I don't think it's my soul. 

How was that book planned? 

For a long time I had the place pretty much in my 
mind, and it's a small place. I didn't need to work 
out so very much. Of course, it's a complicated 
structure of a book, I suppose. It's sort of three 

times round and three times round, 
all comes off. 

I'm not sure it 

I went out there, in 19^1, with Charlie Camp. 
And I think I got the idea of a book almost immediately, 
while I was there. The story of our going out there 
is pretty much what happened, except that there 
weren't any sheep. That was an imaginative part there. 
There could have been, because that's sheep country, 

And what is the name of the real place? 

Black Rock. It's very much as described there. 

But you never lived there for any extended period of 

No, I never lived there for more than a few days at 
a time. It used to scare me to death. I suppose 
that's why it fascinated me so much. It's a grim 
place. You're isolated. If you had any accident, 
you'd never get out. 

It's a place of extremes. I've been shivering 
at a little campfire Just before the sun was up over 
the ridge there. The sun didn't get up very early, 
because you were under the ridge. I was Just 
shivering, with all the clothes on I could get. The 
sun comes up, and it's Just like standing in front 
of a fire. Just Bang! You start taking your sweater 
off, and then it's hot! The temperature must Jump 
fifty degrees or something, Just in that time. It's 
Just the pitiless cold and the pitiless heat, coming 
on like that. 

I got into that place a lot more when I worked 
on The California Trail. (I mean, I got into the 
knowledge. I wasn't out there.) A lot of the 


Stewart: Forty-niners went around that way. I hadn't realized 
how many of them there were when I first worked on It. 

Rless: Did you first work on It In 19^1? 

Stewart: No, I didn't do any work on that book at all until 

not so long before I published It. I did collect some 
Information as I went along. I was out there quite 
a few times, after the war was over, you see. I 
couldn't go during the war, because there was no 
gasoline. But then after that I got out there several 
times with different people. So I got different 
points of view on it. This Parker Trask went with me, 
and worked out the whole geology for me, about what 
was there and what had happened. Carl Sauer, the 
geographer, and Starker Leopold, the wild-life expert, 
were also along, but I remember that trip largely for 
car- trouble. I took a couple of young anthropologists 
out there once, and they were very interesting. 

Riess: Is it a place that brings out the same kind of things 
in other people as it did in you? 

Stewart: Well, it does, yes, if you're a certain type, if 
you're sensitive to that sort of thing. Kenneth 
Carpenter and his wife, at Reno I think I told you 
that they were fascinated with the place. He's the 
man who sent me the picture of it there. 

Riess: Was it an easy book to write? 

Stewart: It was rather hard to write. I'm making it sound as 
if all my books are hard to write. I can also give 
the impression that they were easy to write! It was 
hard to get it the way I wanted it, anyway. 

Riess: You said something about point of view being difficult 

Stewart: Well, I was trying to get as many as possible points 
of view, as you can see. The point of view is very 
various. A lot of it is objective point of view, 
though. But there are also the other people that are 


Riess: What about all those objects that figure in your books? 
Where is the blue pitcher from Sheep Rock? 



Stewart: The Carpenters have that. I gave that to them. I 
thought they'd give it a good home, [laughing] 
The hammer (Earth Abides) is right over there. I 
guess you saw that. I don't have anything much 
from Black Rock now, except I've got a nice obsidian 
point that a man gave me at a cocktail party, a great 
big cocktail party down at the Palace, as a matter of 
fact. The Historical Society gave this big cocktail 
party, and. this guy came over through the midst of 
about two hundred people, and he told me his name. 
He said, "I've got something for you." And he gave 
me this thing. A very funny business. It's a nice 
thing to have a man who comes to cocktail parties and 
gives you something, [laughing] 

Here it is, a projectile point of some kind. 
There used to be lots of them around Black Rock. Now, 
they've been pretty well picked up. I picked up some 
of them, myself. 

Riess: How did you choose sheep for renaming Black Rock? 

Stewart: Well, I didn't want to use the Black Rock name for it, 
because I wanted to keep the book a novel. Sheep 
Rock is a common term and occurs various places in 
the Western states. Usually for wild sheep, for 
mountain sheep, and sometimes for domestic sheep. It's 
a nice, solid name. I liked it. A good straight 
forward name. And it tied in with the theme of the 
sheep, which I used in the book. 

To talk about Sheep Rook as one in a series of 
novels, I may say that it represents a kind of end 
point. The series starts with Storm, runs on through 
Fire and Earth Abides, and in a way comes to an end 
in Sheep Rook, although the Years of the City in a way 
carry some of the ideas on. These might be called my 
ecological novels. They came very swiftly one after 
the other, especially when you consider that I was 
writing nonflctlon books during that period also. 
These books I had in mind clearly long before I wrote 
them, and was just waiting to get a chance to get at 
them. On the other hand, I thought a great deal about 
what I was going to do next before I decided to write 
the Years of the Citv. 

Riess: What did you get into after Sheep Rook? 


Stewart: In 1951 we took a six-month trip to Europe. We 

hadn't been there In a long time. We got a car in 
England, and we drove around the British Isles, and 
then down clear to Sicily. Then we drove around back 
over the Ionian Coast to Brindisi, and took a boat to 
Greece, which was almost pioneering in those days. 
You see, there was little traffic to Greece then, on 
account of the civil war Just being over. We spent 
a month in Athens. So I was out of circulation, and 
I wasn't doing any writing at that time. 

Then, of course, I had done the work on U.S. *fO 
pretty much, by that time. We came back to the United 
States in January, and along about July I got a call 
from Washington about whether I would take the 
Pulbright Professorship at Athens. I hadn't had any 
intention of that. I hadn't been in negotiation or 
anything. I said I could take it for half a year. 
I wouldn't take it for a year, because in the arrange 
ment I had with the University I couldn't afford to 
take a whole year off. I took every half a year off 
anyway, and if I took the other half a year off, I 
lost all the salary. So it was Just too much. They 
were hard up for somebody, so they took me for half 
a year. 

Having come back from Greece in January, I thus 
went back again in August, though I hadn't expected to, 
and spent that time in Athens. So that took me again 
away from doing my writing. U.S. ^0 actually came out 
while I was in Athens that second time. 

Riess: I thought that was the sort of thing people applied 
for, Pul bright s. 

Stewart: I don't know how it is at the professorial level. I 
rather think they would be asked, in most cases. At 
the graduate student level, I think you'd apply. They 
naturally wouldn't know about graduate students. I 
don't know how I was picked out. Of course, I'd been 
in Athens, and it might have been through Morris 
Bishop, who was the previous professor. I had met 
him there. He might have passed my name on. I never 
asked him. 

Riess: Were you to lecture on "American Ways of Life?" 

Stewart: That was the topic I chose, with the idea of doing that 
book, eventually, out of it. I'd had that book in mind 


Stewart: for quite a long time. A great deal of it I did do, 
as lectures in Athens, not all of it. 

Riess: You had been working on U.S. 40 then too? Amazing! 

Stewart: Well, I practice superfetation. Do you know what 
that is? 

Riess: No. 

Stewart: Superfetation is what a rabbit does. She starts one 
litter before she finishes the last, [laughter] You 
could probably find, that out in this book here. Those 
are the kind of dates I put in. I know I did the one 
trip for U.S. 4-0 just at the time I'd finished doing 
the work on Year of the Oath. I was in daily communica 
tion with Berkeley, because I'd have to telephone back. 

You'll get a lot out of this book, [date book] 
Here are where the Black Rock trips are narked. On 
August 10 I left Berkeley for the U.S. 40 trip, 1950. 
I got back on September 20. It will tell you that 
kind of thing. That was the big trip I took there. 
I'd done some work on it before. Oh, if I get to 

reading in this, 
it down here. 

I won't do anything else. I'll put 

So I did the work on U.S. 40. What I was trying 
to do there these picture books were Just becoming popul; 
you see, and I knew I was an anachronism doing this, 
because I believe a picture should tell a story, which 
is the last thing any of these people think. So I 
told the story of each picture, what really was in it. 
I think there's still a lot to be said for that theory, 
because all these books of pictures, people just turn 
the pages, and they get an aesthetic appreciation, a 
fine moment, from them. But they don't really know 
what's in the picture. I think that's too bad. If 
you've looked at that book you know I try to hold a 
person on the page as long as you can, to see what's 
going on. 

What I tried to work out in that book was Just 
exactly what everything was. In the fine old pictures 
of the Civil War they send me this Civil War magazine 
you can't tell what's happening half the time, what 
those people are doing, whether they're officers or 
men, that kind of thing. 


Stewart : 




Stewart : 



So, did you propose this book to Houghton-Mifflin? 

I proposed it to Random House first. They didn't 
like the idea. 'That's one of my quarrels with Random 
House. So I took it to Houghton-Mifflin who did like 
the idea. Of course, I think a publisher is always 
more receptive to a man who isn't his author already 
than he is to somebody who is, because he likes to 
get somebody who's with another publisher. 

Anyway, they took it. That book went over quite 
well. It had a short life because the new idea on 
freeways killed old U.S. *K). Remember my mentioning 
the sudden flurry about the pictures from that? 

Oh, the Metropolitan Museum? 

Are they still calling 

No, they were finally satisfied with a picture of the 
White Owl truck. Why they wanted the White Owl truck, 
I'll never know. Actually, you see, the pictures that 
they picked out seemed to me to be among the poorer 
pictures. I had the terrible feeling they were going 
to use it for a horrible example, or something. 

Did you ever find out Just what they were putting 

Not exactly. It was some exhibition about America, I 
think to send around to schools. One thing I gathered 
was they said it's very difficult to get pictures 
with descriptions of them, which is of course exactly 
what I was doing. 

A couple of young fellows got a hold of that 
book, and wanted to make a movie out of that. They 
did quite a bit of work on It for a documentary. But 
they didn't come across, finally. They couldn't get 
anybody to back them. 

Was much of the American Ways of Life written in 
response to the questions people in a foreign country 
have about America? 

I got something out of that, yes. Of course I'd spent 
a good deal of time abroad Just recently, before that. 
But the idea went back a good deal farther than that. 
You see, when I say that my books have been a long 
time on the back of the stove, that's pretty true, 


Some of the things, 
People's horror, for 

Stewart: when you mention various ones, 
of course, I got from Greece, 
instance, at the idea of drinking milk. 

I always felt strange that the book didn't do 
better, actually, because I think it's a good book. 
Now it's a little bit out of date. Things do move, 
and there are a few chapters that ought to be done 
over, but I don't want to do them over. The book has 
possibilities, though. The anthropologists have not 
taken it up as much as I expected. I think it must 
have been, again, oversimplification. That seems to 
be one of my difficulties. 

Bless: By taking it up, do you mean acclaim it, or take issue 
with it? 

Stewart: Well, no, to maybe use it in courses, or that sort 
of thing. Because it really is the anthropology of 
a large modern country. It could be called anthropology, 

Riess: Did you do much consulting with people in writing it? 

Stewart: Well, I did some. I did most of that myself, though, 
and largely from my own background. 

One of the reasons why it may not have been more 
successful was that it represented, in the end, as it 
worked out, a rather strong point of view which now 
would be called "Wasp"-lsh. I didn't set out to do it 
that way. But as I came to sum matters up, I could 
come to the conclusion only that a tremendous amount 
of what we now think of as being American was 
originally English. This is now an unpopular inter 
pretation. It is especially unpopular among the 
people who do book -re viewing and who do a great deal 
of teaching. You are supposed, I think, to emphasize 
more the contributions of all the various minorities 
and more recent emigrants. 

I might as well say something about the Wasp 
here since when this may be dug out of the files a 
generation in the future people may be interested in 
Just that point.* I think it very strange in one 
particular. People who would never think of using 
what is known as an ethnic derogatory such as "nigger," 
or "Wop," or even "Jew," will go right ahead and use 
"Wasp" though that is obviously another ethnic 
derogatory. The Wasp Is pictured as stick-in-the-mud, 

*"Wasp" means White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. 


Stewart : 



Stewart : 

Stewart : 

hopelessly reactionary, un-artistic, and living on 
peanut butter sandwiches. I am one hundred percent 
Wasp myself, and yet I don't particularly fit into 
that stereotype. Of course, the whole thing is 
"breaking down pretty rapidly in any case. In my old 
Wasp family, two people, for instance, are married to 
Americans of Italian extraction. 

The book had good reviews, but never really 
caught on. There was a translation into Japanese, 
and perhaps one or two others. 

I wrote a good deal of the book while I was in 
Athens as Pulbrlght professor at the University of 
Athens. That was in 1952-53. One of my duties was 
to give a series of public lectures, and I gave them 
on this topic. I worked out about six of the chapters 
as lectures delivered in Athens. 

The State Department took about 1500 copies for 
foreign distribution. There was also a paperback 
edition, which was usually for sale at airports. 

Three books came out that year, 
California Trail was one. 

The Opening of the 


Well, that's not really a book, that's that narrative 
of Schallenberger plus a rather exhaustive introduction 
I wrote for it, and notes. Then there was U.S. 4-0, 
and what else? 

To California by Covered Wagon. 

That's a Juvenile, and the same story as the one on 
the California Trail. I worked that story to death, 
[laughing] I've written it four or five times. That 
little Juvenile is still going. 

And nobody else had written it before? 

It escaped the historians, you see. The manuscript 
came to Bancroft too late. So all he has on it is 
long notes. Nobody else ever worked the story out. 
People knew it. But it had never been put out in any 
form for people to read. 

I finally got a copy of the Years of the Cit.7* though 
I'm afraid that by the time I read it 


Stewart: It will take you a while. 

Riess: "Onoe again, in his always incalculable fashion, 

George Stewart has selected an ordinary subject and 
invested it with pity and terror, and fired it to 
incandescence in the crucible of his imagination," 

Stewart: I think I remember that. 

Riess: How much of Years of the City is true? 

Stewart: Well, I tried not to tie it to any place too particularly. 
As I say in the little introductory note, it's obviously 
Greek, because it has Greek names in it. It's a Greek 
colony. That's a period that interests me very much. 
I didn't date it in the story. There's a reference 
to only one historical event in the whole thing. So 
if you spot that, and date it, why, you'll get the 
date. But it actually runs from about ?00 to 500 B.C. 

I was trying to do that whole sweep of the novel, 
covering that length of time. I guess I told you the 
device by which I spread out the time? The different 
characters? With the inter-chapters used again to 
skip over the time that lies in-between. 

There's something about the tragedy of those 
Greek colonies. They started out so finely, so many 
of them, and they Just seemed to grow old, and the 
situation changed. They couldn't meet it, and they 
were engulfed by the Carthaginians, or the Romans, or 
somebody else. They were lovely places I suppose 
a little provincial, but they must have been quite 
fine places. One of "them developed the Eleatic 
philosophers. Pythagoras was there. Plato visited 
some of the colonies. Herodotus settled in one of 
them. It's really a very great tragedy. 

Yet I don't want to use the word tragedy, because 
in a sense they lived their lives. They're a bit like 
human beings. Two hundred years to run is a very 
common length, between the founding and the ending. 
They're like human beings also in that they have a 
definite founding, a definite birth. They kept that 
record. In fact, it's my personal theory that the 
Roman dating of Urbe Condi ta is really the founding 
of Cumae, which is the first Greek colony in Italy, 
and would have established some dating. 



Stewart : 

They started out, they had a founder, you see, 
an official founder. They were founded under the 
auspices of the Delphic Oracle, most of them. There 
are a lot of analogies with the United States, too. 
They had many of the same problems. They had the 
natives to contend with. I'd like to write a book on 

the Greek colonies, but it's too much of a Job. 
got a lot of ideas that nobody has ever used. 



They had to have military superiority. This 
what the colonists in America had. They had it 
through gunpowder largely. I think the Greeks had 
it through the invention of the phalanx, heavily armed 
men that allowed them to defeat these hill people 
without much difficulty. They got some bad defeats 
themselves, sometimes. It wasn't always their way. 

So I took this city and I started on the day they 
land, when the first ship comes ashore. There is an 
uninhabited coast there, because the people have been 
driven out of the coastal plain by piracy, which 
actually happened sometimes. They were living back 
in the hills, so the plain was open for anybody who 
could take It and hold it. That's where the Greeks 
moved In, practically all around the Mediterranean. 
Then they built their wall. Until they got their 
wall built, they were vulnerable. That was another 
thing they did, almost immediately. 

Then I traced out the first part, the founding, 
as seen through the eyes of the boy. I think on the 
whole the book came out pretty well. Of course, it's 
never been a popular book, and never will be. It's 
too long for most people, for one thing. It doesn't 
in an obvious way touch the great ideas of the present 
time. Although in a more basic way I think it does. 
The question of civilization* 

Did you make those speculations in the book, or is it 
up to the reader to see the parallels? 

No, I didn't express them. They'd have to be seen, 

Do you think that the present-day Greeks have a sense 
of this history, themselves? 

Oh, some of them do. They're very patriotic, and 
very much into that sort of thing. And terribly bored 


Stewart: with it, too, the younger people, because they're 

made to take ancient Greek. They look upon that as 
a great hardship. They don't want to read Homer. 
That's what you would expect, after all. 

There's very little record of the Greek colonies. 
Thucydides says something about them. On some of the 
later colonies, like Syracuse, there's a good deal. 
You see, this was a fairly early period I was working 
with. There's almost no record of Greeks when you 
get back to ?00 B.C. 

But I worked in some anecdotes that are preserved 
by one person or another I Just made use of them 
which a classical scholar might recognize, although 
they're pretty obscure. There was a very good book 
called The Western Greeks by a man named Dunbabin 
whom I met at Oxford. That book really did more to 
give me ideas and data than any other thing I read. 
It's a very moving period. I carried Dunbabin' s book 
through Sicily. 

And of course I'm a great man on Homer, too. I 
get a lot out of Homer. (I read him pretty well in 
the original.) I got something out of Homer for this 

I also think there's been a lot of nonsense 
written about the ancient Greeks. I took that attitude 
to some extent in Man. I didn't give the Greeks nearly 
as good a hand as most people do. I tried to bring 
that out in this book too. Most of the ancient Greeks 
were Just ordinary people like us. There were a few 
philosophers and poets, but there probably weren't so 
very many more than we have, either. 

Bless: You don't suggest that they were once a really great 

Stewart: Well, they were a great race, but they had their 

weaknesses. The very fact that they couldn't survive, 
see, was one thing. I suppose in the military sense 
they were in an impossible situation, scattered all 
around the edge. I think it was Plato who said their 
cities were like frogs on the edge of a pool. That's 
about the way it was. They had no means of defense, 
and they couldn't ever agree among themselves. They 
fought each other all the time. 



Stewart: In the end I had my city overthrown by another 
city, plus the people from the hills, who start 
moving down again. They were more or less like the 
Romans. That's an old story. This city, although I 
didn't spot it In the book, would be on the Ionian 
coast of Italy. I drove along there a couple of times 
and placed it in there. 

Riess: What are the parallels to the United States? 

Stewart: Well, you have a lot of parallels. There's such a 

thing as the problem of domestic animals where do you 
get your animals from? That was a big problem, 
tremendous problem. I dealt with that in American Ways 
of Life in the United States. Greece must have had the 
same problem. You couldn't bring very many animals 
on the little ships they had in those days. They 
could get them from the hill people, probably. That's 
what I had them doing in this story. After they fight 
their first battle, they make up a treaty with the hill 
people, and then they're able to buy animals from them 
to get started. 

Then the question of the intrusion into a country 
where people are living already. You have the military 
superiority, but not so much that you can be too 
careless about it. You have to defend yourself and 
be ready at all times. 

And then the general idea of whether a country 
does grow old or not, and Just what period we're in 
right now, which in a way looks like my third period 
coming up. 

Riess: It's not that two hundred years is a suggestive period 
of time? 

Stewart: No, I don't think you could make any comparison there, 
as closely as that. I'm not too much convinced of 
this idea of a circular pattern of history, anyway. 
I don't think that has too much to go on. It happens 
sometimes. It did happen in those Greek colonies 
pretty often. 

Riess: When this book came out, did you have response from 

Stewart: Very little. The book didn't make much impression, no. 
The book re-reads very well. I like certain parts of 


Stewart: it very much, although I find myself avoiding the 
third book. I think that the fourth book comes off 
very well. 

Riess: As we move chronologically through your career in 
writing, I wonder if you ever had a fallow period. 
There doesn't seem to be one. 

Stewart: No, there wasn't very much. I ran a terrific run, 

oh, you might say from the beginning of writing novels 
up until I wrote Sheep Rock. I never was at a loss 
for which way to turn. I always had them sort of 
stacked up waiting to get into production. I would 
carry one in my mind, saying, "Gee, when can I get 
at that? That would be good to work on that one, but 
I can't start that one yet, because I've got to finish 
this one." 

And then, about at Sheep Rock, I came to a sort 
of end. It wasn't the same after that. And it 
hasn't been, since that time. Of course, U.S. *K) 
was a different type of thing. I wanted to do that. 
I'd wanted to do it for a long time, but it was a kind 
of different thing. It led to N.A. I but that didn't 
get anywhere farther than that. 

I was very doubtful before I wrote the Years of 
the City. I did a lot of thinking about that. I was 
very doubtful about taking it up, whether it was the 
book I wanted to do. But that was something I hadn't 
experienced before. 

Also, in Sheep Rook just a little, and then in 
Years of the City, I had a certain sense of a flagging 
imagination, a little, bit. Things didn't come as 
richly as it had at times before. I think that's 
basically the reason why I haven't written any more 
novels after that. I think a novelist is likely to 
reach that stage, and just putting stuff out to put 
it out, well, I didn't want to do it. You may feel 
that in the Years of the City. Perhaps other people 
did too. The whole scheme of the thing I think is 
very good, very great, really. But I'm not sure that 
the manipulation of it works out all right. There 
are some good things in it, but there was that problem. 

And as I went along you'll notice perhaps after 
this, of course, there were no more novels. And also 
I think the books have plenty of vigor in them, but 


Stewart: I don't quite have the feeling of one leading Into 

the other. One reason, I think, is I had a definite 
feeling I was getting older. That had a curious 
effect on ne; I think in one way, that my years are 
individually much more valuable. There aren't so 
many of them to waste. So I want to feel very sure 
that I want to do this book. It made me a little more 
almost hesitant to begin writing a book, although 
you wouldn't think that particularly from the number 
of titles that have come out since, [laughing] 

Well, the Gettysburg business was something that 
interested me for a long time, again. I had played 
with the idea way back in 1938 when I went to teach 
at Duke. I stopped off at Gettyburg, and spent a day 
wandering around there. I focused on Pickett's 
charge, with the idea of doing what I call "micro- 
history." That's something that's not been done very 

I was trying to get all the Information I could 
possibly get on that small bit of history. Of course, 
when you get close to it, it doesn't look so small, 
because there are a lot of men Involved in it, and 
all that. But I think I did what I set out to do all 
right there. I think it's a good book. 

I had something like ^00 testimonies when I did 
that, which I think is perfectly amazing when you think 
about it. To think there were 4-00 different people 
who wrote I don't mean they wrote complete stories 
of the charge, but there were ^00 people's reports 
that you could use, to bear out events one way or 
another. I went through them all, and tried to work 
out what really happened. Because it's amazing when 
you think what's in the books about that charge, and 
how much of it's wrong. It's absolutely incredible. 
You begin to think, "Well, if the whole Civil War is 
as bad as that, we don't know anything about it." 
And you begin to think, "What if all history's as bad 
as that?" 

For Instance, I more or less started out with 
the naive idea, "Well, now, I'll get a good account 
to start with, and. I'll work on that." Expand it, 
you see, and build it up where it needs to be built 
up. But where could I get a good account? I couldn't 
get any good account to start with at all. There was 




Stewart: nothing I could trust. None of the established 
histories. It's very disconcerting. 

Take a thing like what time was Pickett's charge; 
you'd think that would be a simple thing. But you 
have any number oh, I forget the exact figures, but 
the times given range over something like four hours. 
It seems just incredible. I finally came to the con 
clusion that the time what are you talking about, 
with time? Because there wasn't any standard time 
involved. I think the watches in the Confederate 
Army were twenty minutes off the watches in the Union 
Army, or something like that, [laughter] And then 
there was local Gettysburg time. They could actually 
hear the town hall clock ring out, on the battlefield, 
when they weren't shooting. You'd think that would 
tie it up. 

I finally got you Just couldn't take these things 
and average them. You had to decide who would know 
best. Here some of them were generals, and they 
wouldn't agree with the other generals. You would 
think they would know a thing like that. I finally 
did the best I could. There was a man in Gettysburg 
who kept a running account of the battle from what he 
could hear, and I went by him finally, because he knew 
when the bombardment started. He noted that. 

Riess: Did that sort of thing frustrate you or were you Just 
finally amused? 

Stewart: Oh, it's fascinating. It isn't frustrating, no. It's 

somewhere . 

You know that there's an answer in there 

Another thing is the number of men involved. It's 
all off. It's interesting when you find out why it's 
off. Because everybody says the Confederates advanced 
with 15,000 men. I know where they got that figure, 
but it's all wrong. It's what Longstreet says, "That 
will give me 15,000 men." Only he says it in another 
connection. What he really said was, "If we do this, 
I will have 15000 men;" then they did something quite 
different, [laughing] So, the figure has no signifi 
cance at all. Actually, in action there were about 
10,500 men. I can pretty well prove it, because I've 
got every regiment lined up, and know Just about how 
many men they had, and I can prove it. Try to see 
how much difference it makes. The books will go on 


Stewart: saying 15,000. This "truth crushed to earth will 
rise again," is Just absolutely wrong! Nothing has 
the vitality of a well-told lie. [laughing] 

Riess: I would think this incorrect history would be 

Stewart: It's a little bit irritating. You do a lot of good 
work on something, and you find nobody paying any 
attention to it, keeping on in the same old ruts. I 
did the same thing in other books too. In The 
California Trail I took up the question of cholera 
in the 184-9 migration. There was some cholera, no 
question about that. Bancroft estimates 5000 dead. 
That's absolutely ridiculous, and yet I came across 
that figure in a new book Just the other day. I had 
figured out there might have been 250, something on 
that order. Again, if you get down closely really, 
if there had been 5000 dead, I don't think the 
migration would have continued. Those are casualties 
you Just couldn't stand. Everybody would have been 
losing friends and family. 

Another thing, in the case of the Donner Party, 
was the question where Snyder was killed. Everybody 
says he was killed at Gravelly Ford. Gravelly Ford's 
a well-known place. And I can tell there too, how 
that idea originated, and it's altogether wrong. He 
wasn't killed there at all. He couldn't have been, 
because if you put the distance they were traveling, 
and so forth, and the date he was killed, one thing 
and another together, you can pinpoint pretty well 
where he was killed, about four or five day's journey 
west of Gravelly Ford. Everybody goes on the same 

Hiess: That's interesting. 

For Pi oket t * s Charge did you do anything like 
write to Saturday Review and say, "I am writing a book 
on Pickett's charge " 

Stewart: No, I didn't do that. Maybe I should have. Of course, 
I played the official records very carefully. You 

*See "Truth Crushed to Earth at Gravelly Ford, Nevada," 
Pacific Spectator, Winter, 1950, IV, i. pp. ^6-4-8. 


Stewart: know that 200-volume set^ big volumes, the records 
of The War of the Rebellion? That's wonderful, 
because, you see, they collected and published all 
these reports, and they wrote reports down to the 
grade of colonel, and for most of the branches clear 
down to captain. Lots of the captains In the 
artillery had to send In reports. When you put these 
all together, you get a pretty good record. Then 
there are the big things, like Haskell, who wrote 
this long account, the famous account of Pickett's 
charge, In which he was Involved very much. The 
official records give you the Confederate accounts 
also, although some of them are destroyed. Pickett's 
own account was destroyed, at Lee's request, because 
he thought it would create bad morale in the army. 
Apparently Piokett blamed the North Carolina troops. 
Pickett wasn't much of a man. 

Then there's a lot of miscellaneous stuff. The 
regimental histories, for instance. They've published 
a great many of them. Sometimes they're very good for 
Gettysburg, particularly the history of the 13th 
Vermont. They only fought in one battle, so the 
historian went to town on it [laughing], and they 
happened to be right in the middle of Pickett's 
charge. So that's wonderful. And then I went back 
to Gettysburg, and worked in Huntington Library also, 
and got a great deal out of both of those places. 
Huntington Library had bought the big Gettysburg 
collection that one of the park superintendents had 
put together. 

Back at the park itself they have a lot of news 
paper accounts, some of them very good, which I 
photographed. I set up my own camera and photographed 
the stuff. I didn't do a very good Job, but I got it 
so I could read it, anyway. That turned up certain 
things which you wouldn't ever expect. Like an account 
of Sergeant Easley of one of the Virginia regiments 
who went over the wall with Arm! stead. He told, all 
about it in a very nice fashion. He must have been 
a wonderful man. And you can get all sorts of things. 
It's very miscellaneous. 

The most remarkable thing of all is the trial, 
in which the ?2nd Pennsylvania Veterans Association 
brought suit against somebody or other, against the 
National Park Service I guess, about where the monument 
should stand. This was years later, but nonetheless 


Stewart: you got marvelous, marvelous, testimony on what 
happened, what the individual men went through. 
Apparently they didn't keep the laws of evidence 
very carefully, but let these old. fellows talk, about 
what they remembered about the charge. I had an 
awful time getting hold of it, but I finally got it. 

Riess: Had you been a Civil War buff, so to speak? 

Stewart: Well, to some extent, I suppose. Right now they send 
me this Civil War magazine, because I'm on the board 
or something. I do read it. I've read a good deal. 
I read a lot of the old generals' memoirs many years 
ago. They're very interesting. 

Riess: Are there people actually working on straightening 
out some of the history? 

Stewart: Well, I don't know. You see, most of them work on 
too big lumps, some way or other. 

Another thing I discovered, in working on 
Pickett's Charge, is that Pickett's letters are a 
fabrication, and they're quoted all the time. His 
wife wrote them. He was supposed to have written them 
to her, but I'm sure she wrote them and published them. 

She was hard up, and then I think also, it was 
the glory. She lived on being Pickett's widow, she 
lived almost literally on it. She wrote this 
sentimental thing called Letters of a Soldier, which 
purported to be written by Pickett, during the 
Gettysburg campaign. Some of them were supposed to be 
written on the battlefield waiting for the order to 
charge, which is ridiculous, because he wouldn't have 
had any opportunity to write these sentimental letters. 
And they're full of all sorts of mistakes. They Just 
couldn't be Pickett's. 

There are a few of Pickett's letters preserved, 
which seem to be genuine. They're entirely different 
in style of writing and everything. That's another 
reason you can spot the difference. 

Riess: Is the handwriting the same? 

Stewart: We don't have the originals of any of them. That's 

another suspicious feature. If she had these letters, 
they would probably be preserved somewhere. 


Stewart: The confusion of an event like the charge Is 
something that you Just can't realize. The troops 
were all mixed up. You don't know where they were, 
and nobody ever will know, I'm sure. I came across 
an account by a Virginia captain of what had happened 
to him, and I said, "Oh, the poor guy. He really got 
mixed up." [laughter] "No wonder," I said. "There 
was a lot of smoke and everything and he didn't know 
what was happening. " 

And then I came across an account by another 
Virginia captain who told the same story, of what 
had happened to him. They'd been in the same 
regiment, and they got isolated, and they got off by 
themselves. They didn't know where they were. They 
thought they'd won the battle. They couldn't find 
any Yankees to fight any more, [laughter] So I 
finally just said, "Well, after all, the two of them 
must have been right." I Just had to adjust my ideas 
to what they said. I Just worked it out the best I 
could, what had happened to them. You can't be too 
glib yourself, about what's going to be right. 

Riess: Putting together history from oral histories 

Stewart: Well, my theory on this oral history and all these 

events recollected so long afterwards, is that they're 
pretty good for vivid details, and they're very little 
good for ordered accounts, what came after what, and 
when, and where, and all those things. They're not 
worth much. I've gone through a lot of them, for one 
book or another. 

I notice in my own case, when I don't tell about 
something, when it sits in my own mind, I think it 
remains pretty accurate. As soon as I tell about it, 
what I remember then is what I told, not what the 
original was. What I've written down in my Autobi 
ography, I find is lost now, because what I think of 
it is what I've written down. 

Riess: But the autobiographical stuff you haven't written 

Stewart: No, I hadn't written It, but I say, once I wrote it 
down, then what I think about is not the original 
experience but what I wrote, the words I wrote it 
down in pretty much. 


Stewart: When you think how much history Is dependent upon 
the memories of elderly men, who were interviewed or 
wrote things down years later, again you Just throw 
up your hands. What possibility do we have of these 
things being correct? 

Riess: But how do you feel when you throw up your hands. 
That this isn't important anyway? 

Stewart: Well, I think it's important in a sense. Yes. 
Riess: Exact history. 

Stewart: Well, if it isn't exact, it isn't history, really. 
I'm with Harry Truman. I think these things are 

Riess: What does Harry Truman say? 

Stewart: Well, the reason he figured he was a good president 

was that he'd read history. He was a great reader of 
history. He said that made all the difference in the 
world. And he was one of the greater presidents. 
Little man from Kansas City. 

Riess: I should think it's important to know history, to have 
some history. 

Stewart: Well, your ideal should certainly be to have it exact. 
When it gets as far off as the difference between 
10,500 men and 15,000, that's a big gap. 

Riess: In any case, researching Pickett's charge was something 
that you really enjoyed. 

Stewart: Yes, that was done with great enthusiasm. I had a 

lot of fun. And the micro-history is nice to work on. 

Then I was approached to do this book on the 
California Trail.* I guess I said something about that 
the other day. McGraw-Hill was doing this series. 
The only book I ever did for a publisher, but it was 
my book to start with, anyway. It was a book for which 
I had the background. It worked out very well. That 

*The California Trail, 1962, The American Trails Series, 
McGraw Hill Book Co., Inc. 




Stewart : 

book has sold quite well. Still is doing very nicely. 
It's the best-selling book in that whole series. Of 
course that's largely because it deals with California, 
and it's a good book for a Christmas present. 

Your inter-chapters on "how they did it," "where they 
went," getting the oxen around corners, had anyone 
worked that out before? 

No, nobody had worked that out. Nobody had worked 
out much about the covered wagon, Just what it was 
like. I did some work on that. That chapter on the 
covered wagon, that inter- chapter, I published 
originally in American Heritage, and that got some 
award, from somebody or other. I was going to go back 
to Oklahoma City in a tuxedo to get the medal or 
something, but I got sick and I didn't go. But I got 
the whatever it was some kind of little statuette. 

You see, the trouble with that subject was, it 
was as though you did the same thing every year. So 
the way I got out of that, I Just told "where they 
went" once, you see; after that, I worked out the 
varieties of where they went. 

Because of my dislike of doing a book in a series 
and for a publisher, I might never have done this book 
at all if it had not been for Howard Cady, whom I have 
mentioned before. He happened to come through when I 
was mulling the thing over, and he said, "Well, George, 
you'd better do it. Otherwise somebody else will do 
it, and you will be awfully mad at what he did." 

I had actually been working on the Trail ever 
since the time of Ordeal by Hunger, piecing it out 
here and there. Of course other people had been working 
at it too, and there had been quite a little published 
in the interval. Still, the actual routes and the 
method of their being opened up was not well known, 
and I had a fairly free hand. 

Joe Backus (the graduate student with whom I 
collaborated on the article on Faulkner), went with 
me on an exploring trip over the Trail to see some 
parts I had not seen before. We went as far east as 
Scott's Bluff, Nebraska. 

This book was a very pleasant one to write, 
because I was dealing with so much material about 


Stewart: which I had had a great deal of information for a 
long time. These people with whom I was dealing, 
for instance, were often men and women with whom I 
had been acquainted for many years. I had a problem 
with the Dormer Party, because I did not want to 
write that story again at length. So I gave a 
reference to Ordeal by Hunger, and a very short 
summary. I developed a considerable admiration for 
Joseph Chiles, and I at first intended to do him as 
one of the men in Good Lives. There were difficulties, 
however, in getting the materials free to work on. 
So I shifted to Bidwell, who was, I think, really, a 
much better choice. 

I have been particularly pleased with the way I 
managed to handle the very complicated story of 184-9 
That is plenty big enough for a book by itself, and 
it has at least one book on it. 

I have seriously considered doing another book on 
the Trail, or at least on the process of getting across 
that part of the world. This would carry the story 
from 1859 to 1869, with the completion of the railroad. 
I don't think, however, that I will ever do that book. 
I have never developed quite a strong enough desire to 
do so. The publishers are interested in it all right. 

Riess: You mentioned your feeling about writing beginning to 
flag, and you becoming dubious. It seems that happens 
to other writers. In the Paris Review interviews I 
noted people's careers stopped in some cases very 
early. Do you think it's the fiction writer who has 
this problem particularly? Do poets have it as much? 

Stewart: Poets have it even more. Poets are characteristically 
young men. Fiction writers are middle-aged men. A 
few of them last through indefinitely, but, no, I 
think you'll find that's true. 

There are a lot of great poets that are very 
young, that died young. You don't find novelists like 
that, very many. An occasional one like Stephen Crane. 
It's a rare novelist who does much before the age of 
thirty. Of course, that's hardly middle age, but lots 
of poets are finished by that time. 

Riess: And then what time was it that you would say you were 








Well, I would have been about fifty-five, 
say, however, I was finished. 

I wouldn't 

I mean In terms of wanting to write fiction. Isn't 
that what you were saying? I felt that you meant 
the imagination that applies to fiction and doesn't 
apply to other forms of writing. 

Well, I was speaking about fiction, yes. I think one 
thing I can Illustrate this with is that you have a 
certain bag of tricks that you're born with, I suppose. 
You develop it to some extent by experience, and then 
you start writing, and you use up those ideas. Then 
you start repeating yourself, or something like that. 
I'm not interested in repeating myself. A lot of people 
seem to be able to do it. 

One thing that's always fascinated me is the idea, 
in modern civilization, if you disappear. People do 
every day, of course. What mechanism works? How 
are you discovered? How is it discovered that you are 
missing. I used that in Storm, you see. There's an 
idea which I had in mind for a long time. I didn't 
use it in either of those two early novels, but I used 
it in Storm t and now I can't go and use it again very 
well. That ' s the sort of thing I mean. 

Your novels are all so well planned, 
your own life? 

Did you plan 

No, I didn't. I suppose it might have been a good 
thing if I had, or could have. But, as I say, I was 
so busy with two or three novels stacked up beyond 
there that I hadn't had a chance to write yet, that 
I didn't plan any farther than that. There are people, 
of course, who apparently can plan a great long series 
of books, like Snow for instance, and Proust. But I 
don't think there are so many who can do that. 

That would bore me to death, too. I don't think 
I could possibly do a whole long series of novels 
like Snow. I want to do something different. You 
would get so sick of that, I think, before you got 
through. You'd say, "Why did I ever do this?" It 
would be like Trollope, who up and killed Mrs. Prouty. 
He suddenly realized he was through with her. 

Sometimes one reads of a book being the first of a 
trilogy, and then the rest of the trilogy doesn't get 



Stewart: Well, that's often true. You take C.3. Forester, who 
of course was captured by Captain Hornblower and had 
to keep on writing things about Hornblower for twenty 
or thirty years, and at least always used to say he 
hated Hornblower. I don't think he did exactly. He 
even wrote a poem about It once. He liked to write 
poetry. He wrote this ballade about Hornblower, with 
the refrain line, "Because you've been my friend for 
twenty years." 

But he started to write another series. He wrote 
the first book called Randall and the River of Time. 
He never wrote a single other book about Randall. He 
wasn't very successful, I guess, and Forester said, 
"The hell with it. I'm not going to...." But that 
was planned originally as a big series. Captain 
Hornblower kept on. 

Riess : I certainly remember him in the Saturday Evening Post, 
and I don't know why I never read them. 

Stewart: I think he's mostly a man's writer. There aren't very 
many of them, you know. But he was certainly popular. 
He was really read all over the world. 

Riess: In asking these questions, I guess I am making the 

assumption that this was a sad moment when you stopped 
writing fiction. 

Stewart: No, it wasn't. I didn't come to it that way. When I 
finished Years of the City, I still expected to write 
more novels. I did try one, a little it wasn't 
exactly a novel. Well, it was too. I never wrote any 
of it. I did some work on it. It was too much like 
Earth Abides, and I said, "I don't want to do this. 
While it's a good story, and it is not the same story 
as Earth Abides, still it's much the same situation 
involved in it." So I didn't write that one. But don't 
write me off entirely.* 

Riess: I won't write you off entirely! You Just have such a 
big project going in the other room. 

*Within a very short time (about two weeks) I suddenly 
started dictating what I called The Shakespeare Crisis. 
but I had not decided to do so at this time. [G.S.] 

Stewart : 



Stewart : 

Yes, I do. Maybe that's a mistake, 
have some big thing to work on. 

But It's nice to 



You have another room where you could work on a little 

I might take It up sometime. There are a couple of 
Ideas I have in mind, but this Isn't the time to talk 
about It, really. 


Okay. Going through your works, we're up to Committee 
of Vigilance, and Not So Rich, and Good Lives. 

Well, I was terribly sick of course right In the middle 
of writing Pickett's Charge. I almost died. And I 
think that makes a difference in a man, too. You have 
a feeling you've got to keep the chips sort of picked 
up a bit. I got over that all right. I had an 
operation afterward. A very serious operation. I got 
over that, and so I went ahead and finished Piokett's 
Charge . 

Then I had the California Trail stacked up, and 
that was quite a big Job, too. I had a lot of work 
to do on that. That, much more than the Years of the 
City, is the time where I came to taking stock, again, 
you see. About the time I finished the California Trail. 
I knew I was getting old. I was approaching retirement. 
This business of the years being worth more as you go 
along was working on me a bit. 


I did begin to think, "Well, how many more books 
am I going to do here?" 

Did you have thoughts while you were sick, visionary 

Oh, not very much. I began to wonder if there was 
enough of Pickett's Charge done so it could be published 
or not, and I decided there wasn't, so I didn't worry 
about that. Let's see, as long as we've got this book 
here [looking in date book] oh, these years in 
here are so filled. I was writing in lots of notes 
here at this time. California Trail was 1962. Well, 
you see, I was Just on the edge of retirement then. I 
guess I was retired before that book came out. And I 
was already working on Good Lives by that time. 


Stewart: In a sense Good Lives was an attempt to sum up 
my life, I suppose, and see whether I had been able 
to do anything that way, or what was it that the good 
life was? These were people who had interested me for 
a long time, all of them. That was not a book that 
had great commercial possibilities. It's a bad kind 
of book to do in many respects, because it means a lot 
of work for each man. You do enough work on one man 
to write a full length biography, really, and then all 
you get out of him is a sixth of a biography. You 
never should advise a man to do a book like that. 

Riess: You've Just been saying that you did it for yourself, 
more or less, it seems. 

Stewart: Yes. I did. Yes. So, I did that one. That's a very 
satisfactory book to have done. A very nice book to 
look back on and read occasionally. I read a section 
of it every now and then. And I think it goes all 
right. I tried to rescue two or three people from 
oblivion that should have been rescued. I don't think 
I succeeded very well in rescuing them from oblivion, 
because nobody ever reads the book, but there they 
are, anyway. It's nice to try to capture a person in 
a fairly short space. 

They are nice people, most of them, though I 
think Schliemann was kind of a stinker, probably. 
There again, even what I got out of Schliemann doesn't 
correspond to the legend at all. This idea of 
Schliemann, the facts are all off in the ordinary 
belief about him. 

Riess: Who is the legend designed by, then? 

Stewart: He designed it for himself. It's mostly his creation. 
As far as I know, he was honest in his archaeology, 
though I wondered at times. But he was not honest in 
his writing about himself, because you can get contem 
porary letters that don't coincide at all with his 
autobiography. The whole thing was Just wrong. This 
business about making money and rushing down to dig 
up Troy is all wrong. He spent about fifteen years 
Just fooling around, and he had lots of money long 
before he ever went near Troy. Just the mere dates 
show that. 

I had to try to work out what he was, through 
that legend. He was a very lucky man. He knew it. 


Stewart: He admitted it. He believed in that. Luck's a very 
interesting thing. Did we take that up? 

Riess: No, we didn't. That is. an interesting thing. 

Stewart: I don't know anything about it! [laughter] But I 
know that both Schliemann, and Bidwell, two men out 
of six, actually talked about their luck. They 
believed in it. And they both are very remarkable 
men. Bidwell at least was an extremely stable, good 
man. But two out of six is quite a good ratio. I 
don't know what it means. 

Riess: Does it sound like it means fate? 

Stewart: Well, that doesn't help you any, because you don't 
know what fate is. And I'm not sure that I believe 
in it, actually, at all. I might use the phrase, but 
I think I have a pretty careful apology for it in that 
Autobiography. I say, "This Just might be true," or 
something of that sort, but I don't think I stick my 
neck out. 

Oh, I don't know about these things. We had an 
interesting talk in our dinner club one night. There 
were about eight or ten men there. The conversation 
got around to the question of premonitions, and whether 
anybody among us had ever had. a premonition. We went 
around the group, and several people talked about quite 
amazing things they'd had happen, but they'd say, "It 
wasn't a premonition, it was Just a coincidence. I 
wouldn't say that I had a premonition." 

Except one man. What's fascinating about this is 
that he's a Highland Scot, and they are supposed to 
have second sight, you know. Also this ran in his 
family. He quoted things from his mother and grand 
mother. He had had two premonitions, which he could 
not explain any other way. They both saved his life. 
That's a very fascinating thing. I don't know what to 
make of that. 

Riess: But people are so quick to disbelieve. 

Stewart: Well, I think they should be. I don't believe in 
premonitions myself. 

Hiess: I read your interesting report in one of the cartons 
about the strange happenings in your house. 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 


Oh, the poltergeist? Yes, that was un-nerving. 
[laughter] The thing that got us down, we were looking 
for things to happen. 

After that, you mean. 

Yes. It was un-nervlng. But I'm the last person in 
the world to believe in that sort of thing. I'm glad 
you read that. I was going to mention that. 

You say you're the last person in the world. 

Yes. I'm a Lowland Scot, you know. They don't have 
it. [laughing] 

What is the dinner club you mentioned? 

That's a group that was formed about twenty-five years 
ago. I haven't been in it quite that long. It's 
Just one of these men's clubs, you know, you get 
together and eat dinner, and then somebody reads a 
paper and you talk about it for a while, and you talk 
about a few other things for a while, and then you go 
home for the next month. It was largely formed by 
lawyers. Haynes, who was dean of the law school at 
Berkeley, was one of the original members he's been 
dead for a long time. Ted Meyer, the former regent, 
is in it. Several other lawyers. Two others of the 
men are from the University; one of them is Charlie 
Camp, and the other is Bill Keeler, who was in the Law 
School. There are some businessmen, too. It's a 
very nice group. I am in three of those things now. 

[laughing] One of the ways I'm insuring my 
future here is that these will keep on. As you get 
older you don't have any more friends after a while, 
so if you keep on with something that is continuing, 
that's the good life, you see. I'm in the Cosmos Club 
on the University campus. That's a very nice group, 
quite a large group. They have about seventy members, 
I suppose, and those are men that I've known for 
years and years, all University people. 

It keeps adding new members? 

Yes, it does, although they are mostly older people. 
There are not many that are really young. I suppose 
they are nearly all full professors. And recently, 
since I came to the city, I was asked to Join this 


Stewart: Chit-Chat Club. It*s been going for almost a hundred 
years, which is pretty remarkable. It's had some 
famous members from the University. It's got Joel 
Hildebrand as a member now, and Walter Morris Hart was 
a long-time member. It's got a very notable group 
of men in it, really, some of them from Stanford, most 
of them from San Francisco. I haven't been in that 
very long, Just about a year. 

These clubs are all the same type. They represent- 
I won't say the non-intellectual, but the man who's not 
in an intellectual business they represent his attempt 
to express himself intellectually, and I think it's 
very good. These lawyers, you know, they certainly use 
their brains, but they have to work at a different kind 
of thing, they don't get any kind of really free 
Intellectual work. I think that's what these groups 
represent, more than the social. The social is very 
pleasant that way, but it's not social primarily, as 
the Bohemian Club is for instance. In the Kosmos Club 
you hardly ever have to read a paper, because there 
are so many people in it; in this other group I'm in 
there are only about eleven or twelve, so your number 
comes up about once a year. 

Riess: What have some of your papers been? 

Stewart: Well, as a matter of fact I read a lot of selections 

out of my books as they came along. The first thing I 
ever read was the article on names which I published 
in the Encyclopedia Britannioa. I read stuff out of 
tne Vigilante book, and out of the N.A.I, Piokett's 
Charge practically every book that came along I read 
a selection out of. It was pretty easy for me, after 
all. I didn't have to get involved much in writing 
anything special. 

Bless: It sounds pleasant, and very much a men's thing. 

Stewart: Yes, it is. I think it's a characteristic men's 

activity in this country, and I think a study of it 
would be fascinating, a sort of sociological study. 
J.P. Marquand has a very amusing chapter on a meeting 
of a men's club in one of his books, and it sounds 
like all the rest of them. I may be wrong, but I 
think there are a lot of them scattered around. I 
think you would find one in every university in the 
country, and probably one or several in every good- 
sized city. This one here that's been going on for 



Stewart: Just about a hundred years is remarkable. Usually 

they have a certain life, then they degenerate, like 
a city. 

Riess: That ijs remarkable. Do they have a history? 

Stewart: The Chit-Chat Club is going to have something in 

relation to the 100th anniversary, which is coming up. 

Riess: Do they have minutes? 

Stewart: I don't know how much they have, because I'm Just a 

newcomer in that club. One formerly well-known figure 
in the University lost the minutes of the Kosmos Club 
and was persona non grata ever after. Some people 
take these things very seriously. Even this' little 
group I belong to has saved all its papers. They've 
got an archivist. Charlie Camp is the archivist; he's 
a natural archivist. I guess they've got a couple of 
hundred pounds of papers now, I would say, Just in 
physical mass. They'll probably leave it to the 
Bancroft Library someday. 

The funniest group I ever belonged to, though, was 
the Armchair Strategists. We used to meet during the 
war. That had some interesting people in it, Cecil 
Forester, Joe Jackson, and Charlie Camp were in that. 
I organized that one. We used to meet once a month, 
in the usual fashion. That was during the war, you 
couldn't do much, we'd usually get a little beer to 
drink, or something like that. We had only half a 
dozen in that, and the idea of this was to indulge in 
prophecy. One man had to write a prophecy each month 
and deposit it, prophesying what was going to happen 
in the war the next month. Then when the month had 
rolled away we'd have the meeting and we'd read the 
prophecy and see what happened, and we'd have a lot of 
discussion on war. It was obviously a war club, and 
we had a very good time with that. And it was 
interesting, the thing Just died out after the war was 
over. We didn't make any effort to keep it going.* 

*We started with six members: J.H. Osmer (Standard Oil, 
a Princeton classmate). C.D. Brenner (professor of 
French), Charlie Camp (professor of palaeontology, 
historian), Joseph Henry Jackson (book-editor, S.F. 
Chronicle). C.S. Forester (novelist), G.R.S. We added 
later, Reid Rallton (engineer), Ronald Walpole (professor 
of French). [G.S.] 







Stewart : 



Stewart : 

There is Stewart's Law about clubs and organiza 
tions, and that is that they always degenerate, and 
the reason they degenerate is that they started out 
with a good group, you see, or you wouldn't start at 
all, and then eventually they got bores in them 
somebody wants a friend in and this friend's a bore, 
or something like that, or disagreeable and eventually 
the bores take over. The good men gradually get to 
doing something else and drop out, and eventually 
there's nothing left but a lot of bores, and they can't 

stand each other, and so the thing disappears, 


I would never have thought of you having yourself so 
spread out. 

Well, I'm spread a little bit more now; this is all 
in the latter part of my life, really, although I 
belonged to two others of these, which became extinct, 
I think for the reasons that I outlined there. But 
this is the first time I ever started doubling or 
tripling on the matter. I organized two of these 
discussion groups when I was president of the Faculty 
Club, but neither of them took on permanently. I 
thought there was a chance for them; they both started 
out boldly, but neither of them took on, for some 
reason or other. 

We have often spoken of old age as a topic for inter 
viewing, and I have a hard time putting together 
questions for you about it. It's almost as if old age 
is unspeakable. 

It isn't at all for me. [laughing] You could say 
"aging," that's the euphemism for it. "Aging." I 
really laugh at that one around here. [The Sequoias] 

Is it a subject that is talked about, for instance at 
your clubs? 

No, I don't think it is. I think it's shunned generally, 
I think it is, and I think that's too bad, really, 
because I think you ought to be able to play old age 
as you can play any other part of life. There ought 
to be some way you can handle it, things you can do, 
things you can't. 

I'm getting along very well, on the whole. I 
think it's partly that I have looked ahead. I don't 


Stewart: think you can ignore the years. On the other hand, 
you shouldn't give in to them either. I learned 
that quite a while ago, because there were several 
times when I didn't feel well for some reason or 
other, and I thought, "Oh, well, I'm getting old." 
But then I'd go to the doctor sooner or later, and 
he'd always find something the matter with me; I 
wasn't old at all. [laughter] There was really some 
thing the matter with me. So that taught me something. 
You shouldn't Just say, "Well, I'm getting old," you 
should do something about it. 


Of course eventually you will get old. I did go 
to a doctor another time. I had a neck which bothered 
me because I couldn't look around easily to see whether 
a car was coming from the side or not, dangerous. I 
went to the doctor, and told him about it, and said, 
"Can I can get some exercises that will give me more 
play in my neck?" And he said, "No, you can't. You 
start doing that, and you will create more problems 
than you have. You'll throw something off if you 
start taking exercises, so all you can do is Just get 
old." So now I use the rear-view mirror more. 

Riess: If you proposed old-age as the topic of conversation 
in these groups, what do you think people's feeling 
would be. 

Stewart: I think it would be fine. I think they'd be interested 
in discussing the matter. And I think it might be an 
interesting thing to do. There is very little writing 
about old age, surprisingly little, and there aren't 
very many old characters in works of literature, really. 
King Lear, of course, but he doesn't make a very good 
case for it. There is an essay by Cicero, which I've 
never read Cicero has always bored me but I will 
have to read him sometime and. see what he says about 
it. So there isn't much to turn to. 

Of course the situation at the present time is 
a somewhat curious one because there are too many old 
people. That is, they've become too common. They've 
lost their rarity value. They used to be cherished, 
to some extent, but they are not cherished anymore. 
And I think it is because there are too many of them. 
You have to make ninety now before anybody considers 
you really old, which is good in a way, and bad in 
another way. 



Stewart: Did you see the write-up of Joel Hildebrand this 
morning? [San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 26, 1971] 
I'm swinging a birthday party for Joel at the Faculty 
Club at luncheon on his birthday, the 16th of November. 
I've become quite a swinger of parties lately. We're 
going to have some champagne Just a moment's pause 
in a busy day. Now, he * s a remarkable man. He's the 
one who never really has grown old. Of course you 
can't always do that. He's had the reliable body 
combined with the reliable mind, and that's not too 
easy, that's luck if you get them both that way. 

Riess: Do you think the reason it is not talked about much 
is that it would mean facing unpleasant things, or 

Stewart: I think it's a throw-back from a fear of death. I 

think when people say old age, then the next thing is 
death, and they don't like to talk about death, and 
what that means, and I think old age gets in under the 
same heading. Don't you think that's a possibility? 
People talk about their complaints a lot; they talk 
about all their diseases and operations and troubles, 
but they never talk about that in relation to death. 

Riess: Because that's life. 

Stewart: And yet it's also death in many instances, because 
what they have is probably going to kill them 

I think that's one of the reasons I don't mind 
being here. I think a lot of people think this [The 
Sequoias] is a kind of a stopping-station on the way 
to death, but then so is every place else. You get 
to be my age, you get deaths all the time. It's very 
disconcerting, and it's disconcerting also in thinking 
of the future, because you get more and more lonely 
as you go along. 

This year has been an extremely bad year for us; 
we lost a whole group of people. Not family and not 
people we knew very intimately, but people we've known 
for a long time. It's bound to happen. It won't 
always be as bad a year as this the last three or 
four months, actually. These things come in waves. 
You can't do anything about it. I was impressed with 
Walter Morris Hart in that respect, whom I used to go 



Stewart: see occasionally when he was past ninety. And he 
didn't have anybody left, you know. His wife was 
dead, his sister was dead, and his friends were all 
dead, and he had had no children. It wasn't that Jig. 
had changed; he had Just lived, that's all he'd done. 
And nobody was left. I've been very fortunate in 
some respects. Most of my friends are younger than 
I am not really young, but a good deal younger than 
I am. 

Riess: You said in writing about Hart in the department 
history that although he had the friends and the 
social life and the luxurious existence, that "there 
was no center to it." What did you mean by that 

Stewart: I suppose what I would say is that he didn't have any 
dominating passion any more, that old phrase. 


INTERVIEW VIII, The Shakespeare Crisis; influences 
of California and the West; the Bancroft Library; 
oral history; literary influences; Not So Rich as 
You Think; presses; H a good life"; the Book. 
(Recorded February 2, 1972) 

(continuing a conversation about George Stewart's 
work in progress) 

Hiess: When you can't go to sleep at night, because you're so 
preoccupied, do you get up in the morning and write 
something down quickly? 

Stewart: No, I don't. I figure if I can't remember it, it 

probably isn't worth remembering. I've always worked 
on that principle. I don't think I've ever lost any 
thing of great importance. 

I had an invasion of the library last night.* 
(This is right in your line.) A bunch of rioters 
tried to get in and destroy the card catalog. All 
the catalogers came up from the bowels of the earth, 
and fought them off. I had a wonderful scene going 
there. I think I'll use that. 

Riess: That sounds timely. 

Stewart: Well, not exactly. Things have been pretty quiet 

lately. But I like the idea of the catalogers turning 
into furies, and defending their sacred realm. 

Riess: I think I'll get into my odd lot of questions. They 
probably are not "where you're at," as the expression 
goes, at all. 

*By now G.R.S. was dictating The Shakespeare Crisis. 


Stewart: Well, I can probably adjust. 

Riess: Do you think there are parallels between research, 
as you do it for your books, and the excitement of 

Stewart: Yes, I think so. Very strongly. 

Riess: [laughing] That question shouldn't Just end there. 

Stewart: You should say, "In what way do you think so?" Well, 
it is the interest of discovery. I think it's pretty 
much the same thing, uncovering certain materials 
which at least were not known to the person doing them. 
It may not be original. I mean, somebody else may 
have known these things before. Still, from the point 
of view of the person doing it, it's something new. 
Some of those things that I have discovered in working 
with my books would have that for me, the same as an 
actual research problem might have. 

I've got some examples here right now. I've 
been doing a research Job on the organization of this 
retirement home. [The Sequoias] I guess I told you 
about that. Maybe I didn't. 

Riess: You said you'd been going into the financial matters. 

Stewart: Yes, I've gone through all that. That's a discovery, 
of research. 

And then in this book I've been working on now, 
the novel, I've had an interesting time, because I've 
made a few discoveries of my own in connection with 
the fact that Shakespeare was written by Marlowe. 
That's the way the book starts out, you know. A man 
working on that. And I discovered some wonderful 
arguments in reading the Taming of the Shrew, which 
I decided was the key work for this Job. Of course, 
I don't believe any of this, but this is Just what 
would be a nice argument if you were believing it. 

Riess: But I was speculating that discovery through library 
and research materials was the only kind of discovery 
that was possible now in the West. 

Stewart: Well, if you take it in the sense of the older West, 

that's obviously true. Because nobody is left to get it 



Stewart : 


from orally, 

There's not very much tradition left 

Stewart : 


Stewart : 

What if you really had trailbreaking blood in your 
veins, where would you go, if you really were an 

I suppose you'd have to go into Outer Space. 

If you settled in another part of the United States, 
what do you think you might have done with 

I think every part of the United States has a good deal 
of the same sort of thing we work with in the West. If 
one had any reason why he was bound to work upon local 
history, I think he could get pretty good material 
anywhere. It's still a fairly open field. Take any 
state, and I think you'd find something of that sort. 

I think of living in the heart of New York City. You 
can't even see grass and have that sense of digging. 

Oh, New York City has a magnificent background. A 
good deal of documentary material too. There are all 
sorts of things in New York City which you could make 
use of. 

You know, there was one of the worst I can't 
say exactly witchcraft scares, but it was the same 
sort of thing in New York City. It was a place 
where you had hysteria and they hanged a lot of people. 
A most colorful, horrible story, actually. How many 
people know about that? New York is full of fascinating 
material. And you can still see the same locations. 
Of course, they're all covered with high buildings, 
and asphalt, but it's there Just the same. The whole 
line of Broadway, you know, is Just the old road that 
went up to the farms in the north of the island. The 
very street pattern of New York is interesting. 

Yes. I was thinking of really the westward expansion 
thing, the blue Pacific, and more the environmental 

Well, you get that in the East too, very much. 
But would one still? 


Stewart: I think so. It's not exhausted. The idea I've had 

for a long time, that I'll never do, is in connection 
with the Leather-stocking Tales. Writing the back 
ground of that, as part of the biography of Natty 
Bumppo. Working out the background assuming that 
Cooper Just tried to develop a fictional story about 
this actual man. You could work out a marvelous 
story of Natty Bumppo. 

But I've never been in that area, you see, except 
as a child, and if I'd lived back in New York or 
Pennsylvania I could have done that. 

Riess: Yes, I think you could have. How about Seelye's 

comment, that he thinks you believe, as he does, that 
"as California goes, for better or worse, soon enough 
will go the nation. "* 

Stewart: Yes, I think so. But the same thing could be said 

about practically any state in the Union, [laughing] 
They're all going to go to hell together. 

Riess: I see! Okay. You know what I was getting at in all 

these questions, and you're saying it isn't true; that 
there's not something special about California. 

Stewart: Yes, I think I was saying that. Yes, I think you can 
get it anywhere. What is it that Stevenson said, you 
know, it's a marvelous line when he came West: "Not 
Troy but Homer is lacking." That's not an exact 
quotation but that's the idea of it. The story was 
there, but nobody had written it yet. 

Riess: How did your involvement with the Regional Cultural 
History Project start? You were on a committee back 
in 1955- 

Stewart: Well, I was, way back before that. In 19^5 I was 

chairman of the library committee at Berkeley, and I 
raised the question then, and had this idea we should 
do this. Then I didn't push it through. The library 
didn't actually do anything. But I guess when Jim 
Hart was chairman of the library committee he revived 

*John Seelye, "Placing Names and Naming Places," New 
Republic, Feb. 13, 1971. 


Stewart: this Idea of oral history. So In that sense I am a 
father or grandfather or something of the whole 
movement, because my proposal actually preceded the 
whole activity at Columbia. I did take an action, and 
I suppose you'll find it In the minutes of the committee. 
I know Don Coney Investigated once, and he thought 
that we at Berkeley had a kind of priority on the 
basis of that action. 

Really, you see, my Idea was a kind of revival 
of Bancroft. Hubert Howe Bancroft was one of the few 
people in history who created his documents. And 
that's what we're really doing here, creating our 
documents. We aren't creating history but we are 
creating a record of it. 

Riess: Actually we were interested in putting together some 
of the history of the Bancroft Library. Would you 
have some comments on working with the staff and the 
library over the years? 

Stewart: I first used the Bancroft Library in 1919-20 when I 
was working on my master's thesis. I had discovered 
that Stevenson had written something for the local 
Monterey paper, and I was surprised to find that the 
Bancroft had a file of that paper. I remember that 
Professor Bolton himself told me so. I don't know why 
he was concerned with it, except that I was taking a 
course with him, and probably I asked him or commented 
about it. That was the first discovery of this kind 
I ever made, and I was delighted to demonstrate the 
authorship of the article, even though it was not 
signed, by work on internal evidence. It was the 
article with the title "San Carlos Day," which I 
re-published in the Scribner's magazine. Although I 
had sold a few humorous verses to magazines, this was 
the first what you might call serious publication that 
I did in a professional way. 

The Bancroft at that time was where the map room 
now is. I came back to the campus in 1923 and immediately 
started working on that big cultural history of 
California of which I have already spoken here some 
where. I used the Bancroft a great deal from that time 
on for several years. By 1923 it had moved to the 
fourth floor of the library, and Priestley had taken 
over as director, although Bolton was still very much 
in evidence. I always had extremely pleasant relation 
ships with both of them. Other old-time members of the 


Stewart: staff, with whom I was friendly, were Hill, Eleanor 
Bancroft, and Edna Martin, who has been Mrs. Parrott 
for a long time. I continued working a good deal at 
the Bancroft for a number of years, while I was working 
on Bret Harte. Phoenix, and Ordeal by Hunger. I even 
used, the Bancroft a good deal in connection with East 
of the Giants. After that my connection with the 
library became spotty. In writing my novels, except 
for Sheep Rock, I was not very much in the field of 
the Bancroft, and there would be months when I was not 
near the place. But I found myself always coming 
back for something or other, as when I worked on The 
Opening of the California Trail. (Prom my bibliography 
you can spot Just about when I would have been working 
there . ) 

I also had other connections with the library. 
I was on several committees that dealt with it, 
including the one that recommended George Hammond for 

One of these committees turned out to be rather 
crucial for the library. The professors who were 
interested in Latin-American affairs wanted to extend 
the field of the Bancroft to cover all of Latin 
America. On the other hand, others of us felt that 
this would be a dilution, and would not allow the 
Bancroft to be good in its field. This turned into a 
very hot argument for several months, but in the end, 
and I think wisely, the field was not extended. 

I was also on a committee which dealt with the 
Oral History Project in Its early stages. As for the 
Friends of the Bancroft Library, I was at the original 
luncheon where it or they were started. As I seem to 
remember, Francis Farquhar had a little money from the 
Bender estate which he put into getting the thing going. 
I was not a member of the Friends of the Library, 
however, for a long time, because I felt that it was 
not really an organization which included professors. 
I Joined it finally, and I have served two terms on 
the Council. 

My active participation in the library now is 
confined to binding books one hour and a half a week 
with Harry Roberts. I also bring some of the not-too- 
valuable books home with me and repair them in my 
bindery here. 



Stewart: As you should be able to see from this account, 
my relationship with the Bancroft over many years 
has been a very happy one. I am unlikely, now, to 
take up a topic of research which will lead me to 
spend much time in the Bancroft. I have, however, 
said Just about that several other times, and have 
always ended by coming back on some subject. So, 
possibly, it may happen again. 

By the way, I had an interesting comment about 
this oral history project, which I think I should get 
down somewhere, from Bwald Grether. (He's a retired 
dean of business administration. ) He had read the 
record of Ira Cross, in economics, past ninety years 
old. Grether said, "what's the use of all this stuff, 
anyway, because there are so many errors in Ira's 
record that there's no use having it?" I pointed out 
to him that that in a sense is what's important. 
Getting the opinions. Nobody in his right mind will 
take these things as factual records of history, unless 
he's Just forced, with nothing else to work on. Because 
anybody knows that reminiscences taken thirty or forty 
years after the event are not really trustworthy. What 
they are useful for, Is to give attitudes, and things 
that never get into the record. A documentary record 
of times and places Just isn't very good. You certainly 
want to be as correct as you can, but I don't think 
that's the criterion. Particularly in a man like Ira 
Cross, who is a man of quite violent opinions. 

Riess: Sometimes the interviewer ends up being the historian. 

Stewart: Well, it depends of course what kind of life the 

person being interviewed has lived, what his contribu 
tion to the world has been, naturally. 

Riess: Whether it's their attitudes that are going to be 

Stewart: Or Just what they're going to say and. what's important 
in their lives. I don't think it should be the second 
time recording of stuff which is already in the record. 
I think that's Just a waste of time. The original 
record is much more complete. 

Riess: Very often it's, "Why did you vote for something-or-other 

Stewart: That's all right, because that's probably not in the 


Riess: But your 1970 attitude may be different about It 

Stewart: Oh yes, Indeed. 

Riess: I have dipped into the question with you of what 
books were favorites, what books were influences. 
You didn't really indulge me very much in that. I 
thought I'd try again; maybe a way of looking at it 
would be, what books did you Insist that your children 

Stewart: I didn't push my children around very much that way. 
My daughter read a good deal. My son didn't read at 
all, until he got to college. He didn't read much 
then. He never has been a great reader. I couldn't 
push him at all. I don't know that I gave my daughter 
enough direction, but she was a reader, and she chose 
a good deal on herself. I didn't worry about what she 
was doing. 

I find it difficult to answer a question like 
that, because of course I have read so tremendously. 
Naturally, it was my profession. And since I was a 
reader anyway, to try to pick out what books have 
influenced me is difficult, because of the tremendous 

Riess: I thought if I just asked you enough times, all of a 
sudden some books would just pop to the top. 

Stewart: I did answer to some extent didn't I? 

Riess: Yes, you named Herodotus and older histories, and 




said that you liked, certain kinds of current histories, 
like the Titanic,* 

Stewart: Yes. Yes. That's partly technical interest in the 
way it's done. I mentioned Hardy's Dynasts, didn't 

No, but Jim Hart did. 

Stewart: Well, actually I think that's mentioned in that 
introduction to Storm that I wrote for Modern 

I haven't read it for years, but it has an 
influence on Storm. And of course the King James 
Bible has had a tremendous influence on me. Tremendous, 
Even in this present novel I'm working on now, I 
suddenly found myself talking about somebody walking 
up and down and I realize that's out of the Book of 
Job. It's what Satan does, you see. The Lord asks 
him what he's been doing, and he says that he's been 
walking "to and fro in the earth." [laughing] Then 
I realized this character I've been working with was 
a Satanic character. That's quite an interesting 
psychological point there. And I found him later on, 
having made an agreement with somebody, he says, "Of 
course it isn't necessary to sign this in blood." That 
isn't out of the Bible, but that's the tradition of 
Satan anyway. 

Shakespeare has had a good deal of influence on 
me, for instance, in Fire. A friend of mind, a 
Shakespearean authority (Bert Evans, who retired 
recently) said, "Well, you've got a whole series of 

* I would start with Herodotus, I think. I really like 
Herodotus. He had real charm. ..I like these modern 
things, like Lord, you know. His one on the Titanic 
and the one on Midway, and books of that sortT That's 
a kind of genre which has grown up in the last twenty- 
five years or so, to which I have contributed myself 
to some extent. But I like that kind of story. And 

ve read practically everything that was ever written 
>n the Battle of the Bulge, among other things. That's 
an Interesting, complicated story, an ecological unit 
in itself, with everything tying in together." G.S. 
earlier interview. 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Stewart : 


things out of Shakespeare In that book." I couldn't 
think of anything very much. He couldn't pinpoint it, 
but he is a man who knows his Shakespeare very well, 
and he said there was a whole series. The only thing 
he mentioned was the fact that the fire boss goes 
around and visits the camps after dark. He said, 
That's right out of Henry V. " [laughing] But I think 
that's carrying the influences too far. I said, "Oh, 
that's crazy. That's Just what any good fire boss 
would do." 

So it's not an influence of style, it's an influence 
of material? 

I think more influence of material. There's a good 
deal of Shakespeare in a good many of my books. This 
one I'm working on now is really tied up with 
Shakespeare very much. 

I spoke of Kipling didn't I? 
a child. 

And G.A. Henty, as 

You spoke of him, and I wondered whether that was Just 
a childhood influence. 

Well, I don't think you ever get over your childhood 
influences, do you? 

I hope I've gotten over the Bobbsey Twins, [laughing] 

I rejected Horatio Alger. I noticed in Newsweek he's 
Just been shown to be a homosexual, so I used good 
Judgement, [laughter] There's a lot of interest in 
boys that run through his novels, that has apparently 
a double sense to it. Anyway I never got interested 
in him very much, compared with Henty. 

You take other things. As I say, I've read too 
many things. I pick up something here probably, 
something there probably, but if you take people 
Dickens, for instance Dickens never had much influence 
on me. I've read nearly all of Dickens, some of it 
two or three times, but I don't think it's had any 
serious influence on me. 

The contemporary poet that had the most influence 
upon me is Archibald MacLeish, who fascinates me. I 
don't think you'd probably find very much direct 



Stewart: influence on my writing, but there's something about 
his style which may have influenced me a good deal. 

files s: What was it about The Dynasts? 

Stewart: I think it was in the first place the idea of with 
drawing into the sky, seeing things in the big sense, 
which I used in the opening of Ordeal by Hunger. I 
actually referred to Hardy at that point, but somebody 
told me that's foolish to do that. I think he was 
right, so I out it out. That influence is also very 
strongly evidenced in Storm. I think spread over that, 
to show not only that you could take in vast amounts 
of space, but also that you could take in vast amounts 
of time, if you tried. Space and time are infinitely 
expandable and contract able. 

Rless: What was Hardy's attitude when he did it? 

Stewart: Well, I'm hardly ready to pass an examination on 
Hardy because I haven't read The Dynasts recently 
enough. But he's dealing with the Napoleonic campaigns, 
and he'll describe the whole army, you'll see the whole 
army on the march along the road. He's drawing far 
enough away so that he sees the whole thing at one 

Riess: But this was a play, wasn't it? 

Stewart: It was a theoretical play. It was never enacted as 

a play. There are lots of things that would be quite 
impossible to represent on the stage. I must read 
that again, as a matter of fact. It's a book which 
has not held its place. It isn't read much any more, 
I don't think. 

It's funny, you see, when I wrote that passage 
in Ordeal by Hunger, back in the middle thirties, 
nobody had ever done that. Now, of course, being up 
two or three hundred miles in the air is quite 
commonplace. That's an interesting point. 

Riess: Yes, how could you have known what it was like? 

Stewart: I didn't. I'm not sure I was right, but it was a good 
literary device, to describe the whole trail, you see. 
To see it as the only mark upon the land at that time. 


Riess: Are there any books of your own that you wish you 
hadn't written? 

Stewart: Well, not exactly. There are some books which were 
hardly worth while writing. I mean they haven't 
circulated enough to be of any Interest to people 
much. I don't think there's any book I wish I hadn't 
written in the sense that I think it's a bad book, 
that it's a vicious book, or anything like that. 

Rless: Or that you wish no one would associate with your 

Stewart: No, no, some of the books that are read least I 

appreciate very much when somebody does read them. 
Every now and then somebody does and likes one of 
those books very much, which is nice. 

Riess: Some people me when they see their writing, or hear 
it read aloud, experience great distress, sort of 
mal de mer. Do you know that feeling? 

Stewart: Well, no, I'm usually pleased with my books when I 
reread them. I don't often hear anybody read them 

Riess: Can you remember when you were Just starting? 

Stewart: No, no, I really can't. I read a lot of my Bret Harte 
book here the other night. I had some reason to get 
started reading it. And that was the first real book 
I did and I thought that went all right. 

Riess: How about reading old letters? 

Stewart: Oh, they are terrible. I never was a letter-writer. 
I would probably be very embarrassed at some of them. 
But that's a little different. And I'm going to have 
to reread a lot. I've got a whole stack of postcards 
that I sent back to my father and mother when I was 
bicycling over Europe. More or less to keep a record, 
I usually wrote them a postcard every day. And they 
kept them, so I have a pretty good record of the whole 
trip. I'll have to take a look at them sometime. I 
don't have very many letters that I wrote, I'm happy 
to say. 

Riess: Of course postcards are an exercise in condensation. 



Stewart : 

Stewart : 



Stewart ; 

Yes, they don't say very much, but you can send back 
a picture of something you saw, and that's a record 
in itself. 

Do you have any old poetry that you wish you hadn't 

No, I don't know whether I have a file of poetry of 
mine anymore. I had, for a long time, some poems. 
I don't think there was anything I would be really 
ashamed of now. 

Oh, not shame. I was thinking that this feeling might 
be the difference between the way the professional 
relates to what he's written, and the amateur. 

Well, I was really surprised at that Bret Harte book. 
As I say, I read maybe 75 pages of it, and it was all 
right. I don't know how I learned to do it that well 
that soon. I remember somebody saying at the time, 
somebody I didn't know at all, who had read the book, 
saying, that I was a man to watch. And that intrigued 
me very much of course it pleased me very much. How 
she had that insight, I don't know. Maybe it was 
better written than most books. It isn't perfectly 
written; I mean, I would, change certain things about 
it if I did it today. But it wouldn't necessarily be 
right, of course. That's another thing you have to 
remember. Sometimes you're better when you're young 
than when you're old, although you always think you're 
better when you're old. 

What if East of the Giants had been your first book? 
Do you think it might have been a more difficult first 
book, and the one that might have shown the novice? 

I don't know exactly how to answer. That in a sense 
was a documentary book, too, because it was written 
against the background of that time, the way a person 
of that character would have reacted to the situation 
at that time. That's a thoroughly objective book, 
and of course I think it was a very good idea to make 
it about a woman, because that makes you get out of 
your own personality. 

Riess: So you never did the traditional first novel, about 
one's own life experiences. 


Stewart: No. There's a lot of my life tied up in various of 
those books, but there's nothing definitely auto 
biographical. I suppose Ish in Earth Abides is the 
most autobiographical character. I think there's 
a good deal of autobiographical reference there. I 
used it more or less consciously. I mean, "How 
would I react to something like that?" 

Riess: You would have enjoyed the opportunity to start the 
world over again. 

Stewart: Oh, probably. That's a very common fantasy. I wasn't 
thinking of that so much, though, as I was thinking 
of the way he goes about things, and a certain sense 
of his own incapacities which I think is pretty common. 
A lot of people have that feeling. 

Riess: How about in your current book? Are you there? 

Stewart: I have one character in this book who has some 

qualities of mine. I wouldn't say he was particularly 
autobiographical. In fact I'm actually thinking of 
another man I once knew very much in this character, 
although he isn't too much like that man either. My 
characters get worked out; they're all sorts of 
different people strung together. 

Riess: To complete our running account of your books, we need 
to talk about Not So Rich. 

Stewart: That was a book where I Jumped the gun. I came out 

with that before people were really interested in the 
subject. The book, in a sense, misfired, because 
people were not much interested in the topic yet. If 
it had come out about two years later I'd have done 
Just fine. But that's one of the disadvantages of 
being ahead of your time. I think I said in the 
introduction to that book, or somewhere, that it worked 
out of the influence of two people, both of them 
engineers. One was Professor Boelter at UCLA, who 
wrote me a letter and gave me a suggestion about doing 
it. The other was George Maslach, who's the dean of 
the College of Engineering at Berkeley, who definitely 
suggested that I do that book, and gave me the very 
important document, the report of the commission on 
which he's worked for the President, which was my 
chief source book, and which was new at that time, and 
a very valuable piece of work. And of course it's 

- . . 


Stewart : 


Stewart : 



Stewart : 

HI ess: 
Stewart : 

Stewart : 

been a thing I've been Interested In for a long time, 
and I apparently saw the crisis a little bit ahead of 
other people In general. 

These men thought that a book such as this would stir 
the public. 

Yes, I think so, and of course It did to some extent. 
I can remember one reference to it by a reviewer who 
said it was minor muckraking, which it seems to me 
is an amazing thing that couldn't possibly be said a 
year or two later. 

Since then how involved have you been in the ecology 
movement and issues? 

I really haven't been very much. I send a little bit 
of money to a lot of these things, you know, but I'm 
not really a man who works with committees and. movements 
and that sort of thing. I don't get into that very 

You say that book was two years too early, 
you think finally rouses people? 

What do 

Oh, I don't know in that particular case. Of course, 
things were getting worse and worse and they did 
arrive at the well, you can't say crisis, because 
we may not be at the crisis yet but they got to the 
point where people became interested. And then it got 
to be an emotional campaign, particularly among the 
young. And it's a very good thing too. But I can't 
say Just what caused it. 

How about population control? 
you've thought about? 

Has that been something 

I've been very much interested in that for many years, 
too, yes. 

Have you ever thought of doing any writing about It? 

Not seriously. It's a. pretty technical problem, and 
there has been a good deal written about it. 

I mean in your special fictional vein. 

I never had any inspiration, so to speak, on that 
subject. I've never seen anything I could do to 


Stewart: approach It, although I have been interested for a 

long time. It's always seemed to me to be the basic 
problem of modern civilization, even more than 
pollution, because of course the population problem 
Is one of the chief factors of pollution. 

Riess: You might write about what happens on the day of the 
real crisis. 

Stewart: Well, you get into science fiction there, and I never 
got into that very much. 

Riess: I'd like to know what your experience with private 
presses has been. 

Stewart: I've really have very little experience with private 
presses. I've published two or three things that 
way, usually with the Book Club of California, which 
handles all the press work and that sort of thing 

Riess: You had something printed by the Grabhorns, the Colt 

Stewart: Yes, the Colt Press. That was Jane Grabhorn who had 
that, and it wasn't published under the Grabhorn 
imprint. I wasn't really involved with it very much. 
They Just took it and printed it. Incidentally, they 
printed too many, and it's been a kind of drug on the 
market for a good many years, although now I think 
it's a book which has some value because the supply 
has been exhausted. But I really had almost no direct 
experience with any kind of private press. In fact, 
on the whole I've kept away from them, perhaps again 
being something of a professional. 

Riess: How does that follow? 

Stewart: Generally speaking, you don't publish with a private 
press if you can get a national publication. Private 


Stewart: presses publish specialized kinds of material, usually 
short things and in small editions. They have their 
place, but it was not the sort of thing that I was 
ever primarily interested in, as Jim Hart, for instance, 
has a tremendous interest in it. 

Riess: What about the pleasure of seeing your words printed 
in such a fancy fashion? 

Stewart: I don't feel that very much. I think it's the other 
way around, really. Of course some books can be so 
badly printed that they are a pain to read. On the 
other hand, when the printing itself becomes the chief 
way of Judging the book, I don't like it. It seems to 
me it takes away from what I've written. 

Riess: We've talked about the importance of significant 

divisions of chapters, etc. It seems to me a private 
press could really do this up. When you are dealing 
with a commercial publisher, oan you indicate that you 
want this? 

Stewart: Well, you might, if there was something that you 

wanted very badly, yes, and if you had a good relation 
ship with your publisher. Generally speaking, you can 
trust the modern American publishers pretty well, since 
about the 1920s, when Alfred Knopf made the business 
over, and Random House followed. You get a very nice 
book done by commercial publishers, almost without 
exception. Even the second-string publishers do very 
nice books. 

Riess: The person who designs a book, does he read it through 
to know it? 

Stewart: I think sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't. 
I don't know. Sometimes you can't tell. They can 
make bad mistakes. I think, on the other hand, there 
are good ones and bad ones. Book design you're 
probably thinking of the Jacket, rather than the 

Riess: I was thinking then of initial letters in chapters, 
and how far down the chapter begins, and so on. 

Stewart: Well, of course, I don't think that's important at all. 
It's the content, it's the style, it's not the printing. 


Rless: I had thought that certain kinds of emphasis, like 

beginning a chapter on a new page, would be important 
to you. 

Stewart: Well, that might be, yes, I could see that. But I 

think it's a, very minor factor. For Instance, Names 
on the Land came out during a wartime paper restriction, 
so it's fixed up this way, you see. [Chapters end and 
begin in same page.] Without any blank pages. That's 
a reprint, but of course they kept the same format 
because they Just reprint from offset. I think that's 
the only book of mine that was done that way, but I 
don't mind it at all. 

Riess: I thought also that your interest in bookbinding might 
have brought you closer to the private presses. 

Stewart: That's very recent, and private presses don't go in 

for handbindlng anyway. I don't know any private press 
work that is done by handblnding; it's Just too 
expensive, it's always a special Job. I don't know 
where they get them bound someplace around here. 

There are one or two things that bother me about 
a book. They bother me more as I get older. I suppose 
my eyes aren't so good. You can't have a book with 
too small print, that makes It difficult to read. But 
that's pretty unusual. You get it in old reprints of 
Trollope, and things of that sort, that very small 
type. Another thing Is too broad a line, which I 
sometimes find difficult. But that's unusual too. It's 
usually in some book that is chiefly pictures. 

Riess: What is it difficult? 

Stewart: It's Just one of the things that gets in your road, 

and I think it does slow comprehension, and tires the 
eyes physically, too. But most books are pretty well 
printed. Whether you have a big capital letter and 
that sort of thing doesn't bother me. It's not the 

Riess: It's not the medium, it's the message. Could you have 
been a bookbinder and been a happy man? 

Stewart: I don't know. I don't think so. I don't think that 
would have enough scope. I might have been all right 
in some kind of trade. I think I probably could have 
been. I would have had some kind of hobby of another 



Stewart : 


Stewart : 




Stewart : 

Stewart : 

sort. But it f s pretty nearly impossible to tell what 
you might be. 

As I look back on my ancestry, for Instance, of 
which there's a pretty good record, they never did 
anything very much, and yet they must have had pretty 
much the same mental characteristics that I have. 
They were farmers. Everybody was a farmer in those 
days. And all kinds of tradespeople. I suppose some 
of them must have had very much the same mental set-up 
that I have. 

Mental characteristics, mental set-up? 
sum up your mental set-up? 

How do you 

Well, I don't know exactly. I mean I suppose a 
combination of your emotional and your intellectual 
endowment, which develops into your environment. The 
opening of my second chapter of my autobiography deals 
with that a little bit, I guess. 

I don't remember your ancestors being farmers. I 
thought they were more scholarly. 

Well, I like to imagine they were scholars, some of 
them, but I don't really know, [laughing] There 
isn't a very good record of it until you get down to 
the time of a couple of my uncles, who did scholarly 

It seems like it would be more fun to imagine yourself 
as having sprung out of farming stock. 

I can imagine that, because as I say, everybody was 
a farmer in those days, practically, Some of them had 
other jobs too, of one kind or another. They were 
storekeepers or tavern-keepers. One of my grandfathers 
was a doctor. He must have been a pretty lousy doctor. 

Why do you think he was a lousy doctor? 

Because he always lived in very, very small towns, and 
didn't apparently succeed very well at his doctoring. 
Oh, my great-grandfather on my mother's side is the 
one that I can think of as a scholar. He seems to have 
been such a badly-adjusted, unhappy man, an unsuccessful 
man, and yet you have a feeling that behind him there 
was something that he wasn't doing. He had some 
education, as things went in those days. You imagine 

Stewart: things about a man. 

Hiess: When you wrote Good Lives I think that you said in 
that book, or someplace, that they had solved the 
problem of living. Do you think that any of them 
would have agreed with that assessment, or is that 
Just yours? 

Stewart: I think they probably would have agreed that they had 
led good lives, yes. You don't know how a man's going 
to react to himself, but I think they well might have 
felt that. 

Riess: Other people's assessment at some point along the way 
might be enlightening. It's hard to get objectivity 
about the quality of your own life. 

Stewart: Well, since I wrote that book, several people have 
told me that I was an ezample of a man who had led 
a good life. 

Riess: That's nice to hear, too, I'll bet. 

Stewart: It's very nice to hear, yes. A professor over at 

Berkeley, not long ago, a man I don't know very well, 
said to me, for no particular reason, "You know, 
George, you've led a good life. You've done exactly 
what you wanted to do." Which is partly, I suppose, 
a phase of a good life. 

And after the Christmas dinner at the Faculty 
Club this year, a few men gathered upstairs where we 
had some more drinks, and they asked me. I was 
sitting here, and one of the men from the other side 
of the table, a man (again) I don't know very well, 
got up and walked all the way around the table, and 
spoke to me, "George, I just wanted to say that I 
think you're wonderful." That's very nice. I don't 
know what he was thinking about, but that's sort of 
you feel that in some way you have lived a good life. 

Riess: For somebody to say that you've lived a good life 
implies some kind of objective knowledge. To say 
"You're wonderful," that's different, because that's 
a subjective thing. 

Stewart: Well, I don't think that, particularly. I don't 

think the two statements are comparable in that way. 
They reinforce one another. They both made me feel 
very good. Particularly, since these were men I don't 

Stewart: know too well. It was cocmletely uncalled for, 
mean, it wasn't in the course of conversation. 



Stewart : 

Stewart : 



There's an article that I haven't read, and wish I 
had, in your bibliography, from the Pacific Spectator, 
called "the Twilight of the Printed Book." What were 
you saying in 19*4-9 about the twilight of the printed 

I was a little premature. But things are moving that 
way, gradually. My idea was that the book as we know 
it was not the last or permanent word in the trans- 
mi ttal of information and art. Such things as microfilm, 
microcards, and reproductions of that sort offered 
tremendous possibilities and mirtfit easily replace the 
printed book. There are signs that that Is happening. 

You were ahead of your time, 

That's what's happening 

Slowly. I didn't give it enough time. That's one of 
the great faults of prophecy. You should always give 
it about twice as much time as you think, to start 

You mean you had said within twenty years? 

Twenty-five years or something like that. It isn't 
making out that way. The codex is a very convenient 
thing. My idea was that you could sit here, for 
instance, and have your book thrown on the wall there, 
In letters four inches high. Just sit here and read 
it, and you could press a button and move it, and so 
forth. You wouldn't need to hold the book. 

You wouldn't even have to have a book. 
Just beamed from headquarters. 

It could be 

That would be possible too. Or you could have a 
projector right here. It's working that way. There's 


Stewart: a tremendous project now, of a whole library, 29,000 
volumes or so, on one shelf. That kind of mini- 
print . 

Of course I was conceiving it not merely as a 
way of preserving material efficiently, but actually 
as a way of transmitting it to the reader. The 
emphasis has all been on the preserving of material, 
and it hasn't been on making it available. But 
actually, most people think of microfilm, which was 
an invention of the devil. Reading microfilm is Just 

But that's so primitive. There's no reason why 
they couldn't have something vastly better. You could 
have oral books, too. As I pointed out in this 
article, you could have a machine under your pillow, 
instead of now, as you try to read in bed, you have 
to put something around you, and sit up, and when you 
want to go to sleep you have to take all this stuff 
off, and turn out the light and throw the pillow away 
somewhere, and it's a terrible nuisance, [laughter] 
I never do it. If you could Just have this thing 
reading to you, lie on the pillow and have it reading 
to you, then when you went to sleep, your heartbeat 
would change, and it would turn off. 

The possibilities have nothing to do with this 
old-fashioned codex, which was invented in about the 
fifth century, you know. And it was a very useful 
invention. But it isn't necessarily the last word. 

Now, of course, they're emphasizing the comfort 
to the reader in some of these new ones they're 
putting out. There's a picture of a girl sitting in 
a chair reading this thing. It looks terribly 
uncomfortable to me. She's curled up. But some people 
like to read that way. 

Riess: Seelye, in the same review, said that you informed 
the reader of "the nature and origins of our 
institutions, celebrating them where possible, 
condemning them where necessary." What condemning do 
you think he's referring to? 

Stewart: Well, Not So Rich As You Think is the obvious example. 
There's certainly criticism of institutions, I suppose, 
implicit in Earth Abides, that there are other solutions 
to this tyr>e of thing. There's not one necessarily 
proper one. I haven't done much of that sort of thing, 
though, really. 

Rless: In Doctor's Oral too? 

Stewart: No, I don't think so. That's not really much of a 

criticism of the system. I never meant it to be, at 
least. I don't know exactly what he had in mind there. 
There is something in Man, which could be cited on 
that. I didn't think that was characteristic of my 
work particularly. 

Riess: When you were writing Committee of Vigilance and 
Plckett's Charge and Ordeal by Hunger, I think 
particularly, what did you do about the matter of 
taking sides or passing Judgment? At what point did 
you take sides, if you took sides? 

Stewart: In Ordeal by Hunger, I don't think I took sides much 
at all. I couldn't actually get very enthusiastic 
about a man like Keseberg, but I don't think that I 
took sides particularly. And then I don't think I 
did in the other books very much either; of course, 
I find my sympathies extremely with the Union side in 
Plckett's Charge. I couldn't get away from that. But 
I don't think that's very obvious in the book. And 
as far as Committee of Vigilance goes, that was a 
difficult one to work on at the time. One reviewer 
accused me of defending the principle of the Committee 
of Vigilance. But I tried not to, really. I tried to 
show why they did it, and in that sense it is a kind 
of defense of it, I suppose. But on the whole, not. 

I think that is one thing which has given a good 
deal of strength to my books, that kind of non Judgmental 

Riess: Is it the same as the withdrawing into the sky? 
you pret enough distance? 


Stewart: I suppose so. I find that in this present book I'm 
working on very much, the fact that it's very 
difficult for me to condemn any of these people, in 
spite of the awful thing they get into, and the 
stupidity they show. In one case, this even rather 
satanic character is in many ways the most amusing 
and interesting character in the book, he's by far 
the smartest one of the whole crowd; a real genius 
type. It's very hard for me to try to make a moral 
Judgment on that kind of thing. 


Stewart : 


Stewart : 

Do you think that it's harder in books than it is in 
life? If you were discussing a specific current event 
with a friend, you would find yourself more prone to 
render Judgment? 

Oh, I think so, yes. In a book you tend to see It 
perhaps in the round more; when you come up against a 
particular case, you have to make a Judgment in a 
particular case. 


Actually I'm going to have to have a kind of 
rejection scene in this book, like the Palstaff 
rejection scene. I'm not quite sure how to handle 

You say you've got it more or less mapped out. 
you gotten to the real writing? 


I've icritten at lesist half the book, but I was feeling 
my way along, perhaps too much so. On the theory that 
the thing doesn't exist until it's more or less whole. 
But today I sat down and I went through the last three 
days of the book. It's a six-day book. And I got it 
mapped out now pretty well, got the causation of the 
book. What I had before were certain things I knew 
were goinV to happen, but Just how one got from one 
to the otl^er, what mechanism brought it into focus, I 
hadn't sat\ down and worked out. I knew it would happen 
some way or other but I hadn't really worked out Just 
how. There are still a few things I don't know, but 
I'm sure they'll come out as I go along. 

I plot \ a book like that a great deal more 
schematically and causally than is commonly done now 



Riess: When did you start thinking of this book? We've 
been interviewing for a long time. Has your mind 
been on this book? 

Stewart: No, it hasn't been. I haven't held anything out on 
you here. [laughing] I had the idea, in fact I 
talked about it not about writing a book about it 
particularly I may even have talked to you about it, 
I don't know about the dramatic problem that would 
come if some senior member of an English department 
took up one of the Shakespeare heresies. Finally, 
I think it must have been Just about the time you quit 
coming to see me regularly, I did get this idea: "Well, 
that could be written as a book." I could write it. 
And I was getting tired of this other Job I was working 
on. So I started doing this, and I did a little bit 
of reading to find out something more about the 
Shakespeare business, and decided I wanted to take up 
the Marlowe phase of it. 

Then I got to work, and the first part went very 
rapidly, Just poured out. It was very fine. It 
showed I had a lot of things on my mind, a lot of 
Incidents and ideas that poured out very nicely, and 
shaped up about ten characters. Then, of course, I 
eventually reached the middle part, which as I keep 
telling you is a hard part to get through. Now I'm 
about through with that, and I'm seeing the end of it 
a little more clearly now. 

It's a book that starts out as a comedy, and ends 
as a tragedy. A com! -tragedy. 

Riess: When you say there a lot of incidents and ideas, how 
do you mean that? Descriptions of characters and 
things ? 

Stewart: Yes. Incidents that could be brought in. The whole 

book practically is in scene. You see, it occurs only 
in six days. There's not very much about the back 
grounds of these characters, which may be a certain 
weakness. You don't see them very whole. One or two 
of them are worked out a little more fully. 

Riess: You've been accumulating lots of details in you. 

Stewart: Yes, I think there's something in that. I know I 

spilled out one incident in the opening chapter, and 
then I got to thinking, "Well, that's much too good. 


Stewart: I've got to save that." [laughter] I cut it out 
of that chapter completely, and I've put it in the 
real action of the book. It's almost a climactic 
moment. I couldn't waste it. 

I guess I told you the reason I quit writing 
novels for a while, one reason, was that I felt that 
I was having to dig too hard to get details out. They 
weren't coming spontaneously any more. Now it's 
changed in this book, very much. I think if the 
book's any good, it will largely be that it has a lot 
of vitality to it. 

"Life set out to do a story on C.S. Forester .. .probably 1945, and (to 
judge from the daffodils) spring. We staged a meeting of the Armchair 
Strategists [see page 219] at Cecil's house, to get a picture. (The 
article never came off.) His house was on Keeler, now owned by Jack 
Raleigh. Present [left to right]: C.D. Brenner; C.S. Forester; GRS; 
John Forester; Joseph Henry Jackson (deceased); Lewis (deceased), who 
was a friend and neighbor, not a member; Ronald Walpole; Reid Railton; 
with hands behind head, J.H. Osmer (deceased). The other man we think 
was a stand-in for Life; neither Brenner nor I recognize him. Charlie 
Camp was a member, but not present." GRS 


[Mailed -Questions, 2J February 1972, answered by 
taped dictation by George Stewart] 

Riess: 1. What has your outdoor life, the fishing trips, 
meant to you? Is it a chance to get away and 
think, or to get away and stop thinking? Can you 
think of times when that change of environment 
was very significant? 

2. The 1937 Mexico sojourn: you worked on East of the 
Giants and Doctor's Oral, and even Storm while you 
were there. Why there? What about being in Mexico 
rather than here? A matter of being away from 
teaching and responsibilities, or are there other 
factors in Going Away to Work? 

3. Do you do your best thinking away from home? 

4. Did you choose to teach at Duke in 1939 to "get 
away from Berkeley"? 

What were you doing in Pearl Harbor in November 
Part of your work for Trask? 

6. Why is October 1, 19^4-6, Albuquerque, NYC, 
designated the "Earth Abides trip" in your diary? 
Did you do it as Ish did? 

7. You went back to Mexico to write? in February, 
March 19^9- Again in Fall 1955- 

Stewart: You ask, "What has your outdoor life, the fishing 
trips, meant to you? A chance to think or not to 

I should say that I am likely to do a lot of 
thinking at any time. I don't think that my environ 
ment influences it particularly, aside from the fact 
of being definitely uncomfortable from heat or cold 
or something of that sort. I don't know exactly why 
my fishing trips mean so much to me. I think, on the 
whole, they get to mean more as I get older and have 
fewer definite outlets. I start thinking, "How long 
can I keep up these trips, physically?" I have, for 
instance, developed a bad knee in the last year, and 
I am wondering how much I am going to be able to take 
on the river. Certainly, the chance to get away on a 


Stewart: lovely stream in good mountain country means a great 
deal to me. I don't know exactly why. These trips, 
of course, furnish a change from my ordinary urban 
environment. I Ret more exercise, and usually manage 
to lose a little weight, which I put back in the next 

You ask about the Mexican visit of 1937-8. We 
went there because I had a Sabbatical coming up at 
that time. We were very short of money, and we knew 
that we could live quite cheaply in Mexico. This 
actually proved to be the case. As for going to 
Mexico at all, it was very "in" at that time. The 
actual shooting revolution had quieted down, and there 
was a good deal of experiment in social change. It 
was a very interesting place to be at that time. It 
was perhaps the most optimistic time that Mexico has 
had. There was tremendous interest in education, and 
schools were springing up In all the villages. 

Another, but slight reason for going to Mexico 
was that I was writing East of the Giants, and I thought 
that getting a Mexican background would help me on that. 
It did, but not to a very significant degree. 

I look back to the six months that we spent in 
Cuernavaca as one of the most idyllic times of my 
life. Our regular paycheck from the University during 
that period was about $180 a month, and we had very 
little money besides that. But we got along finely, 
and had three servants and a swimming pool with our 
little house in Cuernavaca. Our health was good and 
the family was happy, and my writing was coming along 

To show a little about the finances of that time, 
towards the end of that period I got a check from Holt 
for $500 as an advance on a novel. With that money, 
when we left Mexico we drove all the way to New York 
with the family, and then back across the country. We 
were completely broke when we got home, but we went 
a long way on that $500. 

You ask, what is really a repetition, "Do you do 
your best thinking away from home?" As I have already 
said, "I do my best thinking anywhere, anytime." I 
may paraphrase what I wrote of a character in the 
Shakespeare Crisis, "My mind is like some great machine 



Stewart: or meatgrlnder, of which the wheels keep grinding on 
continuously. I throw something into it to keep it 
from getting too hot. I do a lot of thinking, and 
sometimes I have to cool the machine by doing a 
crossword puzzle or something of that sort which 
supplies a sort of artificial fodder to keep the 
gears from getting hot. I suppose that fishing, or 
binding books, is a device to keep the machine 
satisfied. " 

You ask about my teaching at Duke. In those 
years I taught summer session pretty regularly, for 
the simple reason that I needed to make a little more 
money to have the budget balance for the year. When 
we drove back from Mexico, we stopped at Durham where 
I knew a few people in the English department, and at 
that time they asked me to teach there for the summer 
session. I took the Job to make the usual bit of 
money, and also because teaching at another university 
yields a slight prestige. I spent a rather unpleasant 
summer at Durham, by myself, the family having gone 
off somewhere. It was hard work, and the heat was 
terrific. About the only pleasant features I remember 
were the dinners. There were several other men there 
teaching without their families, and we had a foursome 
that got together every evening, very pleasantly. 

You ask about Pearl Harbor in 19^4. That was part 
of my work with Trask on the Navy project. The idea 
that I should fly out there and get a little closer 
contact with submarine operations was at least no more 
crazy an idea than lots of others that happened in 
those war years. I had to get up a kind of halfway 
uniform, without any insignia, and since I had served 
in the Army before, being without any insignia always 
made me feel only half -dressed. The Navy didn't give 
such people much status. I rated about Just below 

Curiously, I did accomplish a few things. If 
the war had gone on (though that would have been a 
high price to pay) I think something might possibly 
have come out of that trip. I flew out In a DC-^ with 
a lot of young fellows who were going out as replace 
ments on carriers. They were pretty sober. I flew 
back on a big Coronado flying boat, very slow. It 
lumbered across the Pacific for hours and hours. On 
that trip I made the acquaintance of a young officer, 
Victor Moiteret, with whom I have kept in touch ever 


Stewart: since. He had read Storm and was interested in 
meeting me. 

You ask about the Earth Abides trip. When I 
came to write that book in 19^8, or whenever it was, 
I looked back, Just for convenience, to that trip 
across the country that I took in 19^6. I sent Ish 
by the same route, although that is not of any very 
great significance. That is why I have sometimes 
called that the Earth Abides trip. 

You ask about my later contacts with Mexico. My 
wife and I went there in 19^9, without the children, 
who were on their own by this time. It was largely 
a sightseeing and vacation trip. I settled down 
however in Lake Chepawa for about a month, and during 
that time worked on the final finishing of Earth 
Abides. The trip to Mexico in 1955 was in connection 
with N.A.I. I went clear on to Costa Rica at that 
time. My wife drove with me down as far as Oaxaca 
and from there on and all the way back I was with Hal 
O f Flaherty, a good friend, former editor of the 
Chicago Daily News* I was also in Mexico, although 
for a shorter time, in 1962-63. I spent most of the 
time in La Paz. Some work on that trip, however, was 
gathering material on Tresguerras, in the vicinity of 
Queetaro and Celaya. We stayed in that area for 
about a week, and I rented a car to drive around in. 
The opening of the section on Tresguerras in Good Lives 
(although I do not hold it up as an especially notable 
passage) came to me when I was driving around that 

As a result of these trips my wife and I have 
covered Mexico pretty thoroughly, except for Yucatan. 
We have really not much more desire to go back to 
Mexico, with that exception. The great population 
growth, and the environmental strain, has made Mexico 
a less pleasant place than it was in the thirties. 
Also a great deal of the hope that was then in evidence 
has disappeared. 

INTERVIEW IX, with George R. Stewart and Charles L. Camp. 
First meetings, almost; "the history of life"; folklore, 
and the Drake Plate; hoaxmakers; sideways to history; 
Herbert Bolton; adventures with Charlie and George; off 
the road; the house at Black Rock; later trips, other 


write the way George does"; clubs; the 

library, then; the library, in transition; the Bancroft 
Library; pleasures and pains of writing. (Recorded 
March 15, 1972) 

First meetings, almost 

Hless: When did you first meet Charles Camp, Mr. Stewart? 

Stewart: The first time I can remember we met was in that group 
called the Folio Club. And that would have been not 
terribly early in either of our careers around Berkeley. 
That was, I imagine, about 193^ Is that what you had 
in mind? 

Camp: When were you writing the Dormer Party book? 
Stewart: Just at that time. 

Camp: Well, that was the time I met you, because you came up 
and you wanted to know something about what did I think 
of the men on the Dormer Party? That's what you asked 
me, "Why didn't they have better men?" and I said, 
"Well, they did have some pretty good men. One of them 
was Stanton. " 

I remember how Interested you were in the Dormer 
Party, and I thought, "Well, it seems curious to me. 
You're not a Californian, and yet you" you'd. Just 
come out from Princeton or somewhere "and yet you 
seem to be tremendously interested in this episode in 
California history." 


Stewart : 

Stewart : 



Stewart : 

Stewart : 

Actually, it's rather Interesting we did not meet 
until such a late date, because we were interested 
in the same things, and we'd run along parallel lines. 
In fact, we both went to school in Pasadena when we 
were in high school. 

But you were probably after the time I was. 

I was Just a little bit after, yes, but we were very 
close to having tied up a long time before and never 
did. Just worked out that way. After all, I'd been 
in Berkeley for ten years or so at that time when I 
remember meeting you, and you had been there about the 
same length of time. 

In 1919 George Stewart was hitch-hiking across the 
country and you were going, I think, probably in Just 
the other direction. 

Yes, I was going back. I had Just arrived here in 
1919 from Europe from the war, and I was going back to 
New York to spend another two years getting my degree. 
Trying to finish up my thesis and all that. 

What happened to that hitch-hiking venture? Why did 
it end in Kansas? 

I got kind of sick, and I had had that bad pneumonia 
a year or so before, which I never recovered from, 
which I still, in a sense, have. And it took the push 
out of me. I had gone a long way already, and I Just 
didn't feel I could go any farther on it, so I took 
the train there from Garden City, Kansas, in the 
western part of Kansas. I'd hitch-hiked all the way 
from New York City. 


Did you have any difficulties getting a ride? 

Oh, no serious difficulties. Of course in those 
days there weren't very many cars. If you made a 
hundred miles in one car that was a Big Ride. You 
rarely did that. I wrote that up. I tried to publish 
it, but I could never get anyone to publish it, and I 
threw it away eventually. So you can't see that one. 
[laughter] When I get to my autobiography, that 
section will have to have a chapter on hitch-hiking. 

Riess: When you met Charlie Camp, he was an expert on 
California history? 


Stewart t Yes . 

Camp: I was an amateur, [laughing] I was never an expert. 
But like Bolton used to say to me I was riding 
with him one time to the California Historical Society 
meeting, and he says, "Camp, what are you doing 
dabbling around in California history?" 

"Well," I said I was a little bit peeved about 
this, you know and I said, "Well, Professor Bolton, 
paleontology is a part of history. You ought to 
learn your field. " 

Stewart: Yes, very good reply. 

"The history of life" 

Camp: That's true, too. Paleontology is a part of history. 
It's kind of an extension, and a big extension. You 
can link them up very nicely. It's a good thing to 
do. It's a good thing to forget that there are 
boundaries between paleontology, geology, anthropology, 
and all that. Just forget the boundaries and think of 
the whole thing as a great sweep of history. You know? 

Bless: Was that radical thinking for a paleontologist in 
those days? 

Camp: I don't think so. I think that in our way of thinking, 
the way we were trained in zoology and paleontology 
was to confine yourself very strictly to your specialty 
and not try to branch out. That was one idea, sort of 
a doctrine. They tried to get you to stick to your 
subject and not fool around. Well, I did a lot of 
fooling around. I did a lot of branching out. And 
I'm not sorry that I did, because it makes life much 
more interesting. 

I wrote a book called Earth Song in which I tried 
to bring in this idea of the whole business being put 




Camp : 


together without any boundary lines.* And when I 
submitted. It, I told Sam Farquhar, who was then 
manager of the [U. C.] Press, that I would give him 
a book at the time of the Centennial. (They were 
publishing some books at the time of the Centennial 
of the Gold Discovery.) I told him I'd give him a 
book, and I did. Of course, he'd died in the meantime, 
but I went to the Press with this book, and then they 
objected because it contained history as well as 
paleontologyj, and they didn't think we ought to be 
mixing the two things up. Well, I said, "Read it, 
and see what you think." So finally they decided to 
let it go through the way it was, sort of protesting 
about it. But I think that was proper. 

My book Man is a little bit like that. I don't get 
back into the paleontology particularly, but I tried 
to run all the anthropology right into the. history. 

Sure . 

In a statement in There Was Light, you said, Mr. Camp, 
something about "the obscure origin of mankind 11 and 
"the long, painfully slow progress of humankind. "** 
And I wanted to understand what you meant in that 
distinction between mankind and humankind. 


Well. I don't know. exactly what I did mean, but I 
think that there is probably a difficulty in 
distinguishing at the beginning, at the very beginning. 
We're having difficulties to know Just what they mean 
by "man." When man first comes on the scene, what is 
the distinguishing characteristic, or what are the 
distinguishing characteristics? I used to ask people 
that question, Just for the fun of it to see what 
they'd say, and I asked a priest down in Africa. I 
was studying bones down in Africa, going through the 
caves, and this man came around. I asked him, this 
priest, I said, "What do you regard as the criterion 
of man? If you found ancient remains how would you 

* Charles Camp, Earth Song. A Prologue to History, 
U.C. Press, 1952. 

**Irving Stone , There Was Light. Doubleday & Co . , 
1970, p. 273. 



Camp: know? How would you know whether or not it was man? 
What criterion would you apply to this object to 
know whether it was man?" 

"Well," he said, "man is to be regarded as having 
faith. " When you first have faith. 

I said, "All right. That's wonderful, but how 
do you know that, when you're dealing with bones, and 
dealing with these things in the rocks? Digging 
things up? You can't tell. You have to have something 
more practical in the way of a criterion. You have 
to know whether it was for instance, you know if it 
was making stone tools. Perhaps you have the stone 
tools there, and if it was making stone tools or had 
fire, maybe you could use something like that as a 
criterion, instead of the question of faith or something, 
whether it had religion." 

Of course, you might say, "Well, a person had 
faith if they buried their dead in a certain way, and 
had certain objects buried with the person, funeral 
ceremonies of certain types. Then you could say they 
had faith. In other words, the Egyptians might have 
had a faith of some sort, or other people of ancient 
times had faith. Well, then, they could say that. But 
with these very ancient people, when you're going back 
thousands and thousands of years, why you can't very 
well say whether or not they had faith. So that's not 
a very practical criterion as to whether or not we're 
dealing with man as such. 

So humankind, mankind, humankind humankind 
would be something very ancient, and mankind might 
be something a little more recent. Mankind might be 
something that's involved in the present type of man. 
I suppose. I'm not sure that I understand too much 
about that either. 

Riess: Could you describe each other in 193^ ? 

Stewart: I can remember quite definitely that meeting of the 
Polio Club, because I made an effort to get- to sit 
beside you, Charlie, and talk to you, because I knew 
you had this Interest in California history, and I 
did too. It may have been then that we talked about 
the Dormer Party, actually. But I don't remember what 
you looked like, except you looked somewhat the way 


Stewart: you do now. That's all. I don't think either of us 

is probably a very striking type physically, [laughing] 

I remember having a very good conversation with 
you that evening. And then I don't remember many 
other contacts with you for quite a while. There was 
a meeting up at the International House one time. I 
think you and Lesley Simpson, or possibly Paul Taylor, 
went out and had a cup of coffee or something after 
wards. But that was not very important. I gradually 
got to know you at one time or another. 

Folklore, and the Drake Plate 

Stewart: Really I think the big jump that our friendship took 
was on that trip to Nevada. 

Camp: Yes, or that club we had. 

Stewart: "E olampus vitus." Yes, you took me over to that 
meeting we had in Tuolumne along with Vanderhoof. 
And we had a very nice trip on that. That was an 
interesting situation. 

Riess: What was that? 

Stewart: Well, this "E clampus vitus" I guess it's still 

going but it was supposed to be a parody of Masonry, 
wasn't it? 

Camp: Yes, and it was supposed to resurrect some of the 
folklore of California from the early days. 

Stewart: I think it's still going, but it's been run into the 
ground a little bit. 

Camp: Oh, yes, it's going. It's spread all over the country- 
all over California. 

Stewart: This was back, I suppose, about when would you say? 
That trip? 1938 maybe? 

Camp: Oh, gosh, I don't remember. Wagner was there, and 

Priestley was there, and the Great Hi-0 Chief Puller 



Stewart : 

S tewart : 

Stewart : 

of the Tuolomne Tribe, was there. When the deuce 
could that have been? It was shortly after the 
plaque was discovered, this Drake plaque, because 
we had an Imitation Drake plaque that we put out on 
that boulder, you know. Vanderhoof fixed up this 
plaque that was a parody on the Drake plaque, and 
the Indians were supposed to take care of it. And 
they did. It's still there. The Indians are taking 
care of It. Yes. "Returning the land to the Indians" 
because of the fact that England didn't do anything 
about the occupancy of the country. You see, they 
didn't occupy the country after all. 

Why don't we say a word about that Drake plate anyway? 
What about that, Charlie? Do you have anything to 
say about the Drake plate? 

Oh, I don't know anything about it. 
as though it was settled 

It seems to me 

Well, let's come clean here, now. We've got a real 
opportunity here to say your say about the Drake plate, 

[laughter] Yes. Well, of course, there are so many 
things about the Drake plaque that are peculiar. The 
whole discovery was mixed up because it was picked up 
by somebody and thrown in a car, and was all covered 
with grease when I first saw it. It looked as though 
it had been hammered by somebody recently. Maybe not 
recently, but anyway it looked as though it had been. 
Oh, it was the most peculiar situation. 

And then the story came out that it was picked 
up over here on San Quentin near San Quentin Point 
instead of over at Drake's Bay. Oh, I don't know, I 
suppose we have to say that it was genuine. That's 
what we have to say now. It's like sort of a canon. 
It's like some 

We don't have to say that here, 
we say about it. 

She won't tell what 

Like the Ten Commandments or something, that was dug 
up, that's got to be genuine? Is that it? The book 
of Mormon, or something. 

Riess: Has there always been a controversy surrounding it? 


Camp: Well, there Is a big controversy now as to whether 
it was found at Drake* s Bay or whether it was found 
over here at Point San Quentin. That seems to be the 
controversy now. Nobody ever questions the fact of 
the plaque Itself. 

Stewart: Well, there has been always some question about it, 
of course. 

Camp: Oh, at the beginning there was a big question as to 
whether the plaque was genuine. 

Stewart: Bolton said it was, and he really put it across. 

Camp: Well, Bolton danced around and didn't make any real 

scientific investigation of it. Then Wagner got busy 
and advised him to get it analyzed or something. I 
wrote a little book about it myself. I Just wrote 
a parody on the whole deal. Then they sent it to 
an expert and the expert decided that there was some 
reason to think that the brass was ancient, or some 
thing of that sort. 

Riess: Can't something like that be given the Carbon-1^ 
dating sort of thing? 

Camp: I don't think they could date it, no, but they had 
some reason to think it was ancient. 

Stewart: I know something about that. At least I heard of it 
at the time. You see, it came into the possession of 
the University someway or other, and Sproul appointed 
a committee to investigate it. In the first place, 
Bolton was one of the committee. Well, that was no 
investigation at all, because Bolton had already stuck 
out his neck a hundred miles on it, so all he could 
say was yes. 

The second man was Joel Hildebrand. Well, Joel 
Hildebrand had it analyzed chemically, and I think 
he did a proper Job on it. And it has all sorts of 
impurities in it, such as you would not get in modern 
bronze, or brass, whichever it is. And so it is an 
old piece of brass, no question about that. But that 


Stewart: doesn't mean that a faker couldn't have got hold of 
an old piece of brass. 

The third man was Jimmy Cllne of the English 
department, who was supposed to investigate the 
language of it, to see if it was Elizabethan language. 
Jim was never a scholar, and he was not a good man 
at all for that job. So I never thought that the 
committee did an awful lot except to prove that it 
was an old piece of brass. If it is a fake, it's an 
extremely clever fake, you've got to say that for it. 
You see, you can never prove that a thing like that 
is so. You can prove that it's not so. But there's 
no way of proving that it is so.~~ 

What I always objected to (although nobody ever 
asked my opinion about it, I kept out of it), was 
that it was not handled according to really scholarly 
standards. It was accepted as being what it was, and 
it became a matter of faith, as Charlie had said, from 
the very beginning. 

Camp: Yes. It was $3500 worth of brass. [laughter] 

Riess: How did $3500 enter into it? 

Camp: Well, that's what they paid this fellow for it. 

Stewart: Somebody paid it and gave it to the University, I 

Camp: They paid this man that found it, and then it was 
given to the Historical Society, and [Allen L. ] 
Chickering I guess I don't know just what happened 
after that. I don't know just how it got into the 

Stewart: I think Chickering gave it to the University. And 
it's down there still. 

Camp: Oh, yes. Yes. It looks pretty good. 

Stewart: Well, it may be all right. All I say is it Just 
wasn't a good way to go about the thing. 

Camp: Oh, no. The announcement of it was very bad, of 

course. The whole thing was very badly announced. 
Very bad. And I think that's what Wagner objected 
to more than anything else, the fact that it was 


Camp: announced in suoh an abrupt way without proper 

Stewart: Wagner what position did he take on it? 

Camp: Well, doubtful. 

Stewart: Doubtful. Yes? 

Camp: Oh, yes. He was sceptical. Of course, he had seen 
all the documents regarding the voyage, and written 
a treatise on the voyage, and looked over the 
situation pretty thoroughly. I think that he was 
really sceptical about the whole darn thing. 

Stewart: According to Jim Cline, there's one interesting 

objection made to it from the English point of view. 
I think he spoke to people in the British Museum 
about it, and they said, "Why, Francis Drake wouldn't 
put up a bunch of stuff like that for Queen Elizabeth. " 
It looks as if you or I took a hammer and a cold 
chisel and put those letters in there. 

Camp: That's what it was done with. A cold chisel. 

Stewart: You see, Francis Drake would have had an armorer on 
board, and if he was going to put up a plaque for 
Queen Elizabeth, he would have done a right good Job 
on it. 

Camp: Yes. This was Just a crude Job. 

Stewart: Just exactly what I would have done if I had done a 
thing like that, [laughter] 

Camp: Sure. Yes. What we'd have done down in our cellar 
in our amateur way. 

Stewart: Did you have any idea of anybody who might have 

Camp: Oh, no, except there was an outfit called the 

Tamalpais Show or something. Every year they used 
to have sort of a show over on Mt. Tamalpais, a kind 
of a pageant. I was wondering if they could have put 
up something in the way of a plaque , you know, at the 
time they had this pageant, [laughter] I don't 
know. Of course, that's where it was found. It was 
found right there at the base of Tamalpais. Well, 
anyway, nobody will ever know, I don't suppose. 

Bless: Does this really amount to a real controversy? Was 
there a lot of passion on both sides? 

Camp: Yes, there was quite a bit of passion, quite a bit 
of argument, and there was quite a bit of feeling 
around the whole thing, I think more than it deserved. 
Bolton was a pretty steady sort of a man, and I don't 
think that Bolton got himself worked up over it very 
much. I wrote a parody on it which was supposed to 
be humorous, you know, and Lawton [Kennedy] printed 
it. "Ye preposterous book of brass," or something 
like that, we called it. And we had a lot of fun 
with that thing. I gave a copy to Bolton. I thought, 
"I'll see what the old boy says about it." And 
Bolton said, "Oh, that's good fun," you know. He 
didn't get sore about it in the least. He's a good 

Stewart: Well, he was a man of great self-confidence, I think. 

Camp: Oh, yes. He didn't need to worry about little things 
like that. 

Stewart: If he had decided that was Drake's plate, why, it 
didn't make any difference what anybody else said 
about it! [laughing] 

Camp: Yes. Of course Bolton was a great enthusiast. And 
he got a little too enthusiastic when this thing 
showed up. He thought, "Well, here it is at last I" 
and so on. 

Stewart: You remember George Ezra Dane, don't you? 
Camp: Oh, yes, I knew George very well. 
Stewart: Yes. He loved a hoax. 

Camp: Oh! Well, George, he loved to put over some sort of 
a hoax. Yes. Of course. But I don't think George 
had anything to do with this plaque business. 



Riess: Are you really suggesting that this was a hoax 
within our time? 

Stewart: The world is full of hoaxes like that. 

Riess: But hoaxes that aren't revealed aren't hoaxes? 

Stewart: Oh, well, sometimes it gets so a man doesn't dare 
reveal it! Nobody will believe him! [laughing] 

Gamp: The Piltdown skull. That was one where the guy that 
put it over didn't dare to confess. It was so 
successful, the hoax was so successful, and so many 
people were taken in, that he didn't dare to confess. 

Old George Ezra was always cooking up some kind 
of a deal. He wanted me to write a story about a 
monster that they'd found up at Pedro Point. You see, 
he had a cabin down at Pedro Point, and he was going 
to write this stuff for the newspapers, you know. 
He'd started it. He'd already gotten a couple of 
articles in the newspapers about this great monster 
that came ashore there or something. 

Stewart: [laughing] Well, now, if you have a man like that 
right at hand, a very clever man, why do you say 
offhand that he had nothing to do with the Drake 

Camp: Oh, you mean, why do I say that George Ezra had 

nothing to do with it? I never even thought of him 
in that connection. Hmm! Well, now you've got me. 
Of course, I'll say this, that when Vanderhoof went 
to work and made a copy of it, he made a beautiful 
replica for the tribe up there at Tuolomne, the 
Mi woks, and it didn't take him very long to make a 
duplicate of it. Took a piece of brass, and he 
hammered it out, and made the letters and everything, 
and put the lettering on, and everything was very 
clever. He could have done it of course, but 

Stewart: You would have had to get hold of a piece of old 
brass, because I think the brass is old. 

Camp: Well, that wouldn't be so difficult. 



Stewart: But that could have been done too. There are some 
very Interesting things about it, that is the fact 
that the sixpence, the hole for the sixpence, is 
the right size for Elizabethan sixpence, and not for 
a modern sixpence. But after all, if you're going 
to go in for a hoax, that's the thing you do, you 
know. You do that kind of thing. 

Camp: They looked for the sixpence. They went out there 

and dug around, expecting to find it, but they didn't. 
Well, what would the Indians do if they had a piece 
of brass of that sort? Would they Just leave it 

Stewart: I don't know what they I wondered about that. 

Camp: I wondered myself. I was wondering here, If they had 
a piece of brass attached to a post, and the post 
rotted down eventually, after a hundred years or so, 
wouldn't they use that thing as a frying pan, or 
something? They'd make some sort of use out of it. 

Stewart: You'd think so, yes. 

Camp: Indians are pretty clever at using things like pieces 
of metal. They'd chop it up for pieces 

Stewart: Arrow points, or something like that. 

Camp: Metal. I don't know. Something fishy about it. 

Stewart: Well, we're on record now. You've got us in there 

Riess: You both seem to be able to Imagine the hoax frame 

of mind. I should think a hoax-doer would eventually 
want his hoax exposed. 

Stewart: No, no. I don't think that holds at all. 
Riess: Well, what kind of mentality? 

Stewart: I don't know exactly what it is, but you take I 

brought up Mrs. Plckett's letters in my reminiscences 
there, you see. There's another case. And the world 
is full of those things. I think there's a type of 
mind that likes to do that kind of thing, and they'll 
sometimes go to immense trouble. 


Gamp: Yes, an enormous amount of trouble. Remember at 

the time that the Drake plaque was found, there were 
a series of plaques that were distributed down through 
the desert. Well, I don't know if they were plaques. 
They were some kind of metal objects that were 
secreted in various places, and were supposed to be 
found by clairvoyance. 

Stewart: Yes? What were they about? 

Camp: Oh, they were supposed to demonstrate that this man 
had a certain power of clairvoyance, and he could 
tell you where these things were located. He knew 
beforehand where they were secreted, under rocks, 
and out in toward Death Valley and everything. And 
so, he'd say, "Go to this place and you'll find a 
certain piece of metal with a certain inscription on 
it." And they did, and they found of course Just as 
he said. In other words, he was demonstrating his 
power as a 

Stewart: He'd been around and planted these things before! 
Camp: Oh, yes. Yes, he'd planted them. 

Stewart: Well, look at the Kensington Stone, for instance, 
about the Norse people in America. That's never 
been exposed at all. I mean, it's undoubtedly a hoax, 
or a fake of some kind, but it's never been exposed 
by anybody who did it. 

Camp: What about that plaque that was found at Port Pierre 
in South Dakota? 

Stewart: Well, I think that one may have been true. They 

have found some of them of course. They found these 
lead plates in Pennsylvania, and various things. 
They turn up occasionally. Because some explorers 
did bury that kind of stuff. And it's perfectly 
reasonable some of it should be found. 

Camp: That was another thing. Wagner thought they should 
be using lead. They used lead so often. He didn't 
think they used brass so often. They put up lead 
plaques to make it much easier to handle. 

Stewart: Yes, and they had lead with them, for bullets, 

whereas they didn't usually carry brass so much. 




Camp: I'm not sure but that Drake did put up a lead plaque 
somewhere down around the Straits of Magellan. 

Stewart: Of course, I always figured if it was genuine, we 
had to give California back to the British, didn't 

Camp: Well, that's what we did up at Tuolomne, you know. 
We gave it back to the Indians. 

Stewart: We gave it to the Indians there. That's stretching 
a point. I think it should really go to the British. 

Sideways to history 



Stewart : 

Was George a writer when you met him? 
him as a writer, or as a dabbler? 

Did you see 

Well, I don't know. George had already written some 
things, but I don't know that I'd ever read anything 
that George had written. I thought of George as a 
very interested sort of an enthusiast. You know, you 
can tell right away whether a person is interested, 
when they begin talking about a subject, the questions 
asked, and the way they talk about it. And it was 
perfectly obvious that he was thoroughly interested 
in this subject that he was writing about. I remember 
that part of it. He was very enthusiastic about the 
whole deal, and had particular questions that he 
wanted to know about the Dormer Party. Whether or not 
I could answer them I don't remember, but I know that 
he had certain definite points that he was interested 
in, and seemed to me to be well taken. This is the 
thing that impressed me at the time, that he was a 
man who was really getting into the heart of his 
subject, you know, getting immersed in his subject. 

That was probably right when I was in the middle of 
the Donner Party research, about 193^ I guess. 

I wouldn't be surprised. I think that was Just about 
the time. I know it was in the Faculty Club. I 
remember that part very distinctly. 



Stewart: Well, have you got another question to throw at us? 

Riess: Yes, I was thinking about coming at California 

history sideways; if you Just come at it directly, 
it's what you always wanted to do, does that make 
you a sort of plodding kind of pedestrian historian? 

Camp: I came into history by a side door, you might say. 
I studied history in high school, English history, 
and successions of the Popes and everything, and the 
kings and everything. Oh, it never took with me. 
And I came up here and I took Henry Morse Stephen's 
History-I for two semesters, and boy, I didn't care 
much for that. And I certainly didn't get interested 
in history through taking courses, through the 

I got interested in history because I began 
reading the narratives, by the side door, you might 
say. I was interested in finding out where certain 
people got certain things, in the way of natural 
history objects mostly. Say, on the Long expedition, 
for instance, in 1820, in the front range of the 
Rookies. I'd get hold of the narrative and read the 
narrative. Getting these narratives, reading the 
narratives, why, I got interested in the history. I 
think that was inevitable. 

Herbert Bolton 

Stewart: My history is pretty much the same as that, really, 
except perhaps I had more interest in history from 
the beginning. I read a lot of history when I was 
pretty young, and I took history in high school, 
but I enjoyed it tremendously. In college, I didn't 
take any course in history at all, till I came out 
here, that graduate year I spent in Berkeley. I took 
a course with Bolton, who got me very much interested 
in Western history. So I came into it from another 
side door. And I think it's quite interesting it 
happened that way, because I would say I don't know 
whether I got your question straight there, but I 
would think there has certainly been an example of, 



Stewart: the two of us, of people who came in unorthodoxly 

who have pursued it with a great deal of enthusiasm. 
Whereas if you take Bolton's Ph.D. 's, they don't 
have, it seems to me, nearly the enthusiasm or the 
flair, you might say, that the two of us have shown. 
Now, that's a pretty big generalization. 

Camp: Well, I think that you may be overstating it, 
because a man like Leroy Hafen, who was one of 
Bolt on f s students, has put out a tremendous lot of 

Stewart: Yes, he has, but at the same time, it never seemed 

to me that his stuff had very much flair to it. It's 
pretty dull writing in my opinion. 

Camp: Not everybody can be the writer that you are, George. 
They don't have it in them. There has to be a 
certain number of weeders and hoers in the garden 
as well as Burbanks, I suppose. Some ordinary 

Stewart: Yes. I think it is an interesting fact, though, that 
Bolt on didn't breed anybody that came up to himself 
at all. 

Camp: That is peculiar, isn't it? 

Stewart: Yes. I suppose of these dozens of people that he 

trained, none of them came anywhere near to attaining 
his own stature. 

Camp: Of course, George Hammond comes pretty close. 

Bolton had a tremendous vigor. You know he 
used to pile books alongside his bed and read till 
three o'clock in the morning, even when he was an 
old man. 

Stewart: He not only read, but he could do stuff with it after 
he read it. I always loved the story, you know, 
about Bolton in the library one night. He used to 
work in his office until all hours, and. when he tried 
to go home one night he got in the wrong section, 
and a door slammed behind him and locked him in. 
[laughter] Did you hear that story, Charlie? 


No, I didn't hear that. 



Stewart: And he couldn't get out. Well, he was a man of great 
resource, and of course he was used to roughing it, 
you know, camping, so he went into the women's 
restroom. He figured there was going to be a cot in 
there. Someway or other he was too modest to sleep in 
the ladies' restroom, so he took the mattress off the 
cot and put it out in the hall, and lay down and went 
to sleep I Had a good sleep until the watchman came 
around in the morning and found the professor lying 
on a mattress outside the ladies' restroom. He woke 
him up, and Bolton got up and went home. That's a 
very nice story. 

Riess: Did he tell that story happily, or was he embarrassed 
about it? 

Stewart: I don't think he ever told me, I think the librarian 
told me that story. 

Camp: No, I don't think he'd tell you that story. He was 

Just a little bit sensitive about himself. He's say, 
"Now don't tell that. Don't say..." I remember one 
time Carl Wheat and I were figuring on writing up a 
deal for the Historical Quarterly on the Russians in 
California. So I went around to Essig and Du Pour, and 
Miss Mahoney and some others, and said "Give me some 
articles." I knew Du Pour had written this thing, 
and he said, "Well, if you can get this thing from 
Bolton, you can have it, but I've never been able to 
get the manuscript back from Bolton. " 

So I went to Bolton. "What about Du Four's 
manuscript?" "Oh," he says, "yes, that's right," he 
says. "I've got that manuscript, Camp, I'll get it 
for you.* Six weeks went by, and I saw Bolton on the 
campus. I said, "What about Du Pour's manuscript?" 
"Oh," he says, "by gosh, I forgot about that. Come on 
over to my office and we'll get it now." 

Well, of course, his office was stacked high 
with manuscripts from the floor to ceiling, and we 
started in. I started in at one corner, and went on 
through the stack. And when I got to the floor, why, 
there was Du Pour's manuscript. Meanwhile, Bolton 
was busy over in the other corner of the room. So I 
said, "Well, here, I guess this must be it." "Oh," 
he says, "don't tell anybody that. The old professor, 
forgetting these things. Pretty bad." He said, "I 
didn't realize it was down there, so far down, buried 



so far down." 
you any I " 

[laughing] I said, "I don't blame 




Stewart : 


He never answered letters, you know. You could 
write him a dozen letters, and he'd have them stacked 
up in his mailbox for six weeks. He'd never answer 
any letters. Never bothered. 

Oh, he was really a unified man. I spoke about him, 
Just in passing, in my dictation there, but I remember, 
every time you'd go in to talk with Bolton, maybe 
you'd want to talk with him about the Donner Party or 
something, and he'd say, "What are you working on 
these days?" "I'm working on the Donner Party." "Oh," 
he'd say, "that's fine. That's Just fine." Then I'd 
want to ask him a question or something, but no use. 
By the time I got to that, he was talking about what 
he was doing. And the rest of the time he talked 
about what he was doing. He was always very friendly, 
though, and Just so enthusiastic about what he was 
doing, that he was really a very lovely man. 

You're answering your speculation about why he could 
never breed an historian as fine as himself. I mean, 
you could have gone on, free of this influence, but 
you're describing somebody that's so fantastically 
bent on what he was doing himself that his students 

That might have had something to do with it. 

Well, historians that can write don't come every day 
in the week, you know. Bolton could do pretty well 
as a writer. 

Yes, he could. And he developed as an older man. He 
did much his best writing after he was a comparatively 
old man. 

He told me one time, "You know the secret of this 
writing?" I said, "No, how do you do it?" He says, 
"I never write more than one paragraph on a page. 
I Just write off the paragraph, throw that page aside, 
and then if I have to correct it, why I don't have 
much to do, much to throw away or much to change." 
[laughter] "One paragraph to a page!" That's the 
way he did it. 


Adventures with Charlie and George 

Riess: Was Charles Camp interesting to you as a paleontologist 
when you first met him? Did you talk about things 
like that? 

Stewart: No, I didn't. I didn't know much about paleontology, 
and I don't think I ever talked to him very much 
about that until we went on that trip up in Nevada 
and he was crawling down holes and things of that 
sort. I was waiting for him to come back and wondering 
whether he was coming back, in some instances. I 
guess Charlie was wondering the same thing. 

Camp: Well, they had some mines in conglomerate, you know, 

and the stuff was Just hanging loose from the ceiling. 
You could Just reach up and. pick off a big chunk if 
you wanted to, or it would drop to the floor. So it 
was kind of a funny-looking mine. I asked this guy 
who was down there, "How often do you get buried down 
in here? It's a dangerous place." He says, "I got 
to watch." Another place we went in there at Rabbit 
Hole Springs we went in and got a drink that evening, 
didn't we? And then we came out the next morning and 
looked at the door and there was a sign on the door 
that said what was it? "The County Health " 

Stewart: "This water is contaminated with typhoid fever and 
arsenic." [laughter] If the one didn't get you, 
the other would! 

Of course, I never believed that! I thought 
that was another hoax! 

Camp: We went up to the Rosebud and they said, "Oh, if you 
stay there six weeks you'll get some kind of kidney 
trouble or something, from that water." Well, we 
didn't say there six weeks, so we didn't have to 

Riess: The trip in 19*H was the first Black Rock trip? 
Stewart: Yes, July, 19^1, Just before Pearl Harbor, you see. 
Riess: How did that all come to pass? 

Stewart: Well, Charlie had Just come back from China not long 
before, hadn't you Charlie? 


Camp: I had come back from China about four years before 

that, but I might have Just come back from some place 
in Utah or someplace. At any rate, you were the one 
that organized this trip. You had it all arranged. 
I mean, you had it all outlined what you wanted to 
do. And I didn't have much of any idea of what the 
country was like up there. I'd never been up there 

Stewart: Well, I hadn't either. I remember saying to you, 

"Charlie, let's take a trip to northwestern Nevada," 
and you said, "Sure." So we went to northwestern 
Nevada. That was a great trip. We went up first to 
Hasaklas Creek, do you remember? You had a geological 
job to do up there. Then we cut across, went out to 
Reno, and went up in the desert. 

We had a copy of Delano's book along with us, 
one of those reprints. I also had a saw, and I had 
some tools in the back of the car. (It was my car 
we took along that time.) And this was a main library 
book, which I shouldn't have taken out of the state. 
The saw got against the book, and there are some little 
saw-marks in that book, which I think is still in the 
main library; if you want a reminiscence, why, go and 
look up Alonzo Delano's reprint and see if it doesn't 
have some saw-marks. Maybe they've rebound it by 
this time. 

Camp: Oh, that's Just the reprint. It didn't do any harm. 
Riess: What were you after? 

Stewart: I had Delano along and I was sort of following him, 
like a guidebook. It was very interesting, because 
he wrote a very good narrative, in 1839 and you 
could tell where he went pretty well by driving over 
the road. I didn't have any very definite ideas of 
doing anything about that. I just wanted to get off 
for a while. 

Riess: And you, Charlie, you were Just going out on one of 
your summer expeditions anyway? 

Camp: Oh, I wanted to go out with George. I had never been 
out with him, and I thought it would be an interesting 
place to see, and I would sort of like to travel with 
him. It was a good chance to see a part of the country 
that I had never seen before. I didn't think there 




Camp: would be much chance of finding fossils up there. 
There are a few. Nevada's full of fossils, but 
they're scattered. Little pockets here and little 
pockets there. They don't usually amount to much. 
But you never know what you're going to run Into next 
In Nevada. 

Off the road 

Bless: What kind of car were you driving, and what kind of 
campers were you? 

Stewart: It was a 193? Chevrolet. It was a good car, too. 
It wasn't very new by that time, and I Just marvel 
at the chances we took on that car. 

Camp: Yes, there were two or three places there we shouldn't 
have gone. We shouldn't have gone across that mud 
flat, and we shouldn't have gone across that ditch . 
that day. 

Bless: And the mud flat? 

Stewart: Well, the mud flat happened to be all right. We got 
across very easily 

Camp: It happened to be, yes, but 
Stewart: But we didn't really know. 

Camp: We'd have been there yet, If we'd gotten stuck out 
In the middle of that thing! 

Stewart: Yes, It was thirty-five miles to walk back. 
Camp: Oh, boy, I'll say it was. 

Stewart: And then the next day we were going north from Black 
Bock up those next springs there, and we got down 
into a kind of thing like a great big ditch about ten 
feet wide at the bottom 


Just about as deep as this room. 





Stewart : 



Stewart : 

Steep sides on both sides of It! [laughing] 


Stewart : 

We got down into it, all right, 
how do you get out? 

Next question was, 

We went out and did a little spade work, I think, 
and then I took the old Chevrolet on the run, and 
Woop! the wheels spinning round 

Moved out of there, all right. 

And got her out. Oh, we went on beyond that. We 
took chances all the time. I just wouldn't have 
nerve to do that any more at all I 

You camped out all along the way? 

Oh, yes. We didn't have anyplace to stay, 
all our own camping stuff, though. 

We had 

I don't think we had a tent. We had a pressure-cooker, 
though. That's what we used to cook in. 


Oh, yes, we had a pressure-cooker. You betcha. Every 
thing went into the pressure-cooker. I think George 
said something to Ted about how terrible my cooking 
was, and Ted was talking about it afterwards, she was 
talking to some woman about it, and she said, "Oh, 
George got so sick of Charlie's tomatoes. He put 
tomatoes in everything!" 

I don't remenber that. I remember you being a very 
good cook, except you cooked too much, and I couldn't 
face so much stuff to eat. Charlie's got a much more 
hearty appetite than I have. 

Well, I may have had then, but I don't now. 

I had this stuff to drink. You know, if you taste 
this desert water, it's terrible, but if you take a 
gallon of wine along and put about one third wine in 
the water, it makes it quite palatable. And we did 
a lot of drinking on that. 

We went to Black Rock, and then the next spring 
up is called Casey's Place. We went up there. And 
then we went on up to Double Hot. There are two very 
hot springs that come out. Then from there we out 
across some land without any road at all, if I remember, 


Camp: Mud springs. 

Stewart: Came to a little ranch up there. There were some 
people working out in the hay field. That was the 
first people we'd seen. 

Camp: Soldier's Meadows. 

Stewart: Went on to Soldier's Meadows and then across by 

another terrible road into High Rock Canyon. And 
then finally we got up into that antelope reservation. 
Just full of antelope. Remember? We slept one night 
up there in the middle of all the antelope. 

Hiess: Was it an emigrant trail that you were following? 

Stewart: More or less, yes. We couldn't follow it all the 

way through, but from Rabbit Hole Springs to well, 
way up to High Rook Canyon we were more or less 
following It, yes. 

Camp: We went out to the middle of the Black Rock Desert 
and found this thing full of water, this old 

Stewart: The old Quinn River Slough, yes. 

Camp: Yes. We couldn't cross that, so we had to go back 

and go clear on around, and then we came back to 

that point, didn't we? Prom Black Rock. We really 
covered it pretty well. Yes. 

Stewart: At that time the place up there was full of obsidian 
points and clippings. Hardly anybody had been up 
in there. It's pretty well picked up now. I told 
you [in the interviews] about the guy at the cocktail 
party bringing me this thing. 

Riess: Did he [George Stewart] really, the next morning, say 
that he could write a book about It? 

Camp: Well, I think he did. Yes, I think he was figuring 
on a book at that time, but I didn't know of course, 
he didn't know either just exactly how he was going 
to handle it. 


The house at Sheep Rock 

Gamp: There was this old house there, and it was entirely 
out of place, because it was a pretty well-built 
old house. It wasn't exactly a cabin, it was a well- 
constructed house. 

Stewart: Built of railroad ties, mostly, Charlie. 

Camp: Pull of old rats, you know the rats had been in 
there and built nests in the shelves, all through 
the shelves. And the pipes leading out from the spring 
were all covered with this encrusted stuff from the 
spring, this lime that came out of the hot water. They 
had a place out on the porch with the bathtub where 
the water had come, they pumped the water out of this 
hot spring and out to the bathtub. Evidently he was 
some kind of a crank or a sick man or something, and 
he had this place out there to take this hot bath. I 
guess he'd probably gone out there for his health, 
from the looks of things. And then that place burnt 
down later, didn't it? Well, that was a very 
interesting-looking place. 

Stewart: I found that fellow later, Charlie. 
Camp: Oh, you did? 

Stewart: Yes, he was over in Susanville, and I had a talk with 
him. He had gone out there in the Depression to get 
himself through. He had a wife and at least one child. 

Camp: Was he sick or something? To go out there? 

Stewart: No, he wasn't sick. There are a lot of self-reliant 
fellows around, particularly in those days. 

Camp: Did he build that house? 

Stewart: Yes, I think he did. He carted railroad ties over 
the railroad, and got that house up there. He had 
all these ingenious things, like that hot water 
business you were talking about. He was a very 
ingenious chap. 

I found the old water pitcher up there later. I 
didn't find that on our trip, Charlie. I pieced the 
pitcher together. 


Camp: Oh, yes, I know. Looks like something that came 
out of an old hotel. 

Riess: How do you think the place burned down? 

Stewart: Oh, I found out about that. Somebody up there 

started to burn the meadow off when it got dry, and 
it got over and got into the house, and Just burned 
it up. The place had, I guess, a hundred old records 
in it, and I always meant to pick them up and bring 
them back, just for interest. They were mostly 
records of the twenties and thirties, phonograph 
records. They might have been worth quite a bit of 
money if I'd ever got them out of there. But by the 
time I went up and really decided I was going to get 
them, why, the house had burned down, and of course 
they'd all burned with it. 

Yes, I found that fellow and had a talk with 

Camp: How'd you find him? 

Stewart: Oh, somebody up there, one of those ranchers one 

place or another, said, "Oh, he's over in Susanville, 
and his name's such and such." When I went over 
there he was cutting meat in a butcher shop. He 
talked to me, and he was quite interested. It seemed 
to me he had a pretty poor Job, but he said, "Oh, you 
should have seen me when I was over at that place. 

I didn't have anything at all. Now I've got a fine 
job here." So here he was cutting his meat. 

Hiess: Did that place get to him at all? 

Stewart: Well, not at hia present stage. No, he was glad to get 
away from it. That was his exile, I think. 

Camp: One of the funniest things, most curious things, on 

that trip was when we stopped at Gerlach, and we went 
around to all the different saloons and everything, 
to ask the directions out to Black Rock. Not a soul 
knew, until one, we finally found one guy that could 
tell us. And of all the people that we met at 
Gerlach, of all the little bits of towns you know, 
right in the middle of nowhere out there, and within 
forty miles of the place we wanted to go to, none of 
them could tell us where the road was that went out 
there. Don't you remember that? 




Stewart : 
Stewart : 


Stewart ; 

Stewart i 

Yes, sure I do. Yes. 

Remember the fellow that said you kicked him all 
night? [laughter] He claimed that George had been 
sleeping with him the night before and kicked him 
all night, [laughter] I thought that was real funny! 
Oh, you know, those fellows after they drink a little 
they never know what they're doing. 

I think the guy was drunk, [laughter] 
dream had come from outside. 

I think the 

Did that give you some kind of indication that you 
were going to a strange place? 

It certainly did. Yes. Driving up there was like 
steering a boat. You see, we drove up along the west 
side of the desert there. There were little car 
tracks going along, and we could see the Black Rock 
across the desert. We knew that was where we were 
trying to get to. And it was anything from, say, five 
to eight miles across there. And finally we decided 
we'd gone far enough, and we Just turned, and went 
right across this, Just steering for the Black Rock. 

[laughing] "Let's head out for it!" We didn't 
realize the darned thing would be muddy in the middle. 
That was the last thing we thought of. Of course we 
know now that the water gets onto those flats and 
blows around. The wind '11 come and it'll blow the 
water five or six miles in some places. And you 
know, it'll go to a low place and stay there and make 
mud. If you get into that mud, with your car, why, 
you might have to kiss your car goodbye. 

I'm amazed we ever got that car back! We did. 

I guess Ted didn't think it was in such good shape 
when we got it back. 

Probably didn't, no. They were tough cars they made 
in those days, though. 

Yes, it was a pretty nice little car. That's the 
way to travel. These people who go out with trailers 
and everything, never get anywhere like that. 



Later trips, other companions 









Speaking of Ted, where were the wives and children on 
these expeditions? Did they have any interest in 
going, or was that inconceivable? 

Oh, we used to take I used to take Jessie and the 
kids. Oh, sure. We used to go out to New Mexico 
and go out, you know, into the badlands of New Mexico. 
I'd go down to the second-hand lots and get an old 
limousine of some sort, a seven-passenger oar, buy it 
for about $100, get an old Cadillac or something like 
that, take the cylinder heads off and put in a new 
gasket, chip out the carbon and put in a new gasket, 
and the thing would go for six thousand miles and 
never have any trouble. I had two of them. I had 
two Cadillacs on one trip. Both of them were these 
big limousines. And another time I got the last of 
the Pierce -Arrows. By gosh, I wish I had that car 
today! I could get twenty-thousand dollars for it! 
Gee, it was a wonderful oar. My gosh, it would roar 
down the line like a bull elephant. 

You sound very resourceful, 
person to go camping with. 

I've been camping a lot. 

You sound like a good 

Yes, I've done a lot of 

Without having a good man like Charlie along, I would 
never have dared go into those places I did on that 

Well, perhaps I could get foolish, 

I don't know, I 

We were foolish. I don't know if we got that way or 

Did you talk about what the place really meant that 
first night, or was it only subsequently that you 
got into thinking about it? [See Sheep Rock] 

Stewart: I don't remember particularly, do you Charlie? 
Camp : No . 


Stewart: We were a little bit nervous about how we were going 
to get out of the place. 

Camp: Yes, I know. That's the thing that we worried about 
sometimes. Yes. I don't know. 

Riess: That was your only Joint trip to Black Rock? 

Stewart: Yes. Then Parker Trask and Carl Sauer and Starker 
Leopold went there in one trip. And of course they 
could tell you practically everything there was to 
be known about the place between them. Then, in 19^-7 
and 19^-8, I was up there with Jack, my boy, a couple 
of times, and I was up there with a couple of young 
anthropologists Carl lent me from his department. 

Camp: Oh, well, didn't you find a better road to get in 

Stewart: The road was all right. It just goes right across 
the salt flats, that was all. 

Camp: Oh, you went across there? The last time you went in 
you went across the mud flat. 

Stewart: Yes, just the way we did except by that time we knew 
we could get there. The last time I was up there I 
was with John Edwards and Jim Holiday. Jim wanted 
to see the place because his emigrating party went 
through there, and John had read Sheep Rook and he 
was interested in it, so the three of us went up 
there. We didn't stay very long that time. In fact 
the road was so heavy we didn't drive quite to the 
spring. We had to leave the car down a couple of 
hundred yards and walk up. We didn't spend the night 
that time. 

Riess: Your trips have been at different seasons too? 

Stewart: Yes. I was never up there in the winter, really. I 
have some regard for my safety! I started up once 
from Reno. I was going to drive up as far as Gerlach 
anyway. The road was absolutely lonely, and covered 
with snow. I got up about halfway, and I said, "This 
is crazy," because I had my wife and my daughter and 
one of her friends along. I said, "This is crazy." 
So I turned around and came back. 


Camp: I should think it would be a little bit chilly up 
there in the wintertime. 

Stewart: And then another time, I started in with my wife 

from the other side, Susanville, and drove over part 
way. And then we heard that the whole desert was 
under water. This was early in the season. And so 
we didn't get there that time. That's the reason I 
dedicated that book to my wife, you know, who I said 
was very close to it. Which has a double meaning, 
because she was close to it twice and never got there. 
We could look across the desert and see the rock. No 

Riess: Gerlach is the equivalent of Harlan in the book? 

Stewart: Yes, I guess so. I don't remember. Gerlach' s a 

little town on the railroad down there, near a cement 
mill. Pretty abandoned little town. There really is 
not much there. 

Camp: Oh, it's Just a rough little town. 

Stewart: Yes. Parker Trask was a lot of help on all that 

country. He wrote me a whole report on the geology 
of that country. 

Camp: Oh, he did? Well, what's the Black Rock? Sort of a 
volcanic mountain, isn't it? 

Stewart: Oh, yes, it's volcanic. That was a mere detail for 
him. He was clear back way beyond that. 

My son is doing the map for all Nevada now, 
editing the U.S. Geological Survey map. He'll be 
two or three more years on it, I guess. He goes back 
every summer. But he's not much Interested in that 
corner of Nevada. I guess somebody else has done all 
the work on it. 

Camp: I don't think that that's so interesting to the 

geologists as this big overthrust. There's a hundred 
mile overthrust, you know, that goes out towards the 
Roberts Mountains. Part of California is supposed to 
have been pushed over into Nevada, like a moving 
sidewalk. Geologists seem to be interested in this 



Stewart: Oh, yes, he f s interested in a lot of that stuff. 
They've had some very eminent men working on the 
geology of Nevada. Jack just has to coordinate all 
this stuff, which is a big Job. 

Camp: Yes. Well, there are a hundred mountain ranges in 
Nevada, some of which haven't been worked on very 
much. But that little place of mine out there 
Muller's student, Silberling, had a thesis on that 
area. He published it, and so that's all taken care 

Stewart: Well, are you going to ask us another question now? 

'...write the way George does' 

Riess: I'd like to have you talk of the ways you've Influenced 
each other, calling George the Poet, and you the 
Scientist, or some such. 

Stewart: Well, he's a poet too. That book of his. Earth Song. 
But I don't know that we influenced each other very 

Camp: No, I don't think so. I think that there's always 
been in the back of my head the wish that I could 
write the way George does. You know, he can sit down 
with a dictaphone and Just spiel it off. And then get 
somebody to type it for him and then he's got a book, 
you see. 

Stewart: Well, I do a lot of work after that too. 

Camp: Do you? 

Stewart: But still, I can make a start. 

Camp: Boy, it takes me hours and hours to get anything 

done. Days and days and all that, frightfully slow. 



HI ess: You've been members of some interesting clubs. 
Stewart: Yes, we first met in that Polio Club, which folded. 

Camp: And then we had this Armchair Strategists group. 

[See Stewart interview.] And now we've got this other 
club that we're in. 

Riess: This third club is the one you refer to as your dinner 
club. Does it have a name? 

Stewart: Yes, dinner club. 

Camp: It's a dinner club. We've had several names for it 
but we don't stick to any name. There is always an 
objection. If they call it the East Bay Club, why 
the west bay people don't like the idea, and so on 
and so forth. So, there has never been a permanent 

Riess: What was the Folio Club? 

Camp: Oh, that was a book club. It was organized by Sam 
Parquhar originally. And I think Harold Leupp had 
something to do with it. I think the idea was to get 
people that are interested in old books, or bookbinding, 
illustrating* See, Sam was the head of the University 
Press. And he was Interested in meeting the people 
in the University that were interested in printing, and 
having printing done. Sam was a very convivial sort 
of a guy, and he was a genius for meeting people and 
getting people together. He was Francis Parquhar 's 
brother, you know. So, he organized this group, and 
I think he had something to do with organizing the 
Roxburghe Club in San Francisco too. That was another 
book club. 

The Folio Club was interesting for a while, but 
when you have a group that's confined to a certain 
interest, why that interest sort of dies out after a 
while. You wear it out; interest Just in books or 
bookmaking tends to wear out. I may be mistaken about 
that, but to me you certainly can overdo it a little 
bit. It seemed to me that there was a little 
difficulty in getting papers and so on for the meetings. 


Camp: I was president of it for a while, then Harold Leupp 
took it over. I was away, and when I came back it 
sort of disintegrated. The whole thing went to 

Stewart: Yes, that's about it, the way it went. 

Riess: In a group like that the interest isn't so much in 

the material in the book but in the thing, the object? 

Camp: Well, I think in the people too, to find out what 

they're doing. I think my interest in the beginning 
was to find out what different people in the University 
were doing and what they're Interested in. like Harold 
Small and people like that. There were a lot of people 
I didn't know very well. 

I think you could say the same thing for the 
Cosmos. Well, you're in the Cosmos Club too. In the 
Cosmos Club you've got a group there that has a wide 
spread of interests, varied Interests. I think that's 
part of the attraction of the group, the fact that 
there are so many different things that people are 
Interested in, and you're sometimes surprised to find 
out what people are interested in, besides their 
specialties. I like to go to the Cosmos Club. I'm 
usually sitting across from Heizer or somebody like 
that, that I can usually carry on a pretty good con 
versation with. I see them once a month. I don't 
go out so much as I used to but I certainly used to go 
to the Cosmos Club frequently. 

Stewart: I go to it pretty regularly because it gives me a 

good tie with the University, which I don't have so 
much any more, living across the bay. 

Camp: Well, I'm going to try to get out to it more now. I 
haven't being going out quite so much lately. 

Riess: The men in the club are more interested in their 
hobbies than their specialties? 

Stewart: No, most of the papers are about the men's own work, 
the serious work. And a good many of them are too 
specialized, really. 

Camp: I don't think the papers are the thing that interests 

me so much in the Cosmos Club, at least usually they're 



Camp: not; it's the conversation at the table. Used to 
be some* pretty lively conversation when you had 
people like Gilbert .Lewis., people like that there. 

Stewart: It's a group that includes members from all over the 
University, that's what's interesting about it. 

Camp: Ernest Lawrence used to belong to that. I remember 

one meeting along Just about the time the war started, 
when he said, "If I had a lump of this stuff, as big 
as my fist, it would be too dangerous to handle. It 
might blow up the whole East Bay." I thought, "Now 
what in the devil is he talking about?" Well, it was 
the beginning of atomic fission. And he'd gotten 
started on it here. 

I talked to Latimer one day about it and he 
said, "They're scared that the Germans are going to 
get it before we do." Soon they shut up, everybody 
clammed up about it, nobody would talk about it any 
more. It was very serious business. 

The library , then 

Riess: Any comments on the library, changes in it? 

Camp: Yes, that's another subject where we'd probably come 
together quite a bit. On the library committee too; 
you see, George took over Just after I was chairman, 
didn't you? 

Stewart: Yes, we were on the committee together, I think. 

Camp: I think so, and then you took over. I think there 

was some criticism of me because I didn't call enough 
of the subjects to the attention of the committee. 
But there was one reason for that; you know, at the 
time I was there they were Just starting this thing 
down at Alamo in New Mexico. And that had to be 
kept quiet. And so Oppenheimer came to me one day 
and he said, "I want all the physics library moved 
down to the desert, and nobody's to know about this. 
Your library committee is not to know about it. The 


Camp: only man to know is the librarian, and he can have 
his people working on it." 

So I said, "All right, you're the boss." I 
went over to the physics department to find out how 
much duplication there was on the physics books. 
(You know, I didn't want to take the whole business, 
naturally. ) I found out that there was a good deal 
of duplication, that they could get along pretty well 
if we rooted out most of the things that they needed 
in the desert, or wherever I didn't know where this 
place was. I know now where it was of course, but 
at that time, I had no idea where this place was. 

So I didn't say anything to the library committee, 
because I was asked not to. But that was done Just 
the same, they did the job and sent the books down. 
It was the beginning of Los Alamos. 

Stewart: It's very interesting that they consulted with you 
on that, as the chairman of the library committee. 
There are very few universities where they would have 
done that. 




Stewart : 


That might be true. 

That shows the prestige of the senate. 

Possibly so. It might have been a piece of courtesy 
on the part of Oppenheimer. 

It might have, 

But even so, I think that it's rather 

I think he was essentially a courteous man, you know. 
It might have been that he had a certain idea of 
protocol or courtesy or something. I don't know. I 
never did know just exactly why he did that. 

In most universities I think that would have been 
handled right from the president's office right 
straight down. Oh, they probably would have told the 
librarian, because they'd have to tell him. Under 
war conditions I think an organization like the senate 
committee would not have been consulted. I think 
that's interesting. 


Stewart: I was chairman Just the year after you were, 
Charlie. I had a very uneventful year, I can't 
remember much of anything that happened. 

Camp: Weren't they moving the library then? I had quite 
an eventful year, or two years, because they were 
planning the extension, the annex and everything, 
ripping down north hall and putting in the annex, 
the Bancroft Library and everything. 

Stewart: I didn't have much to do with that. I can't remember 
much of anything I did in my year, except I sort of 
broke Don Coney into the Job. I was chairman of the 
committee when he came as a librarian. And also, 
George Hammond came in then. 

Camp: Yes, I was on the committee that brought George 
Hammond in. 

Stewart: I was too, we were on about the same, or at least 
we were probably on it successively. 

Camp: That was the one good thing that we did, I thought. 

Of course there was a great problem then, and I don't 
know but that the problem is still with the library: 
The question is, how many branch libraries should they 
establish in order to relieve the main library of a 
great deal of encumberance in the way of stack space. 
We used to meet with the architects quite often 
because they were planning, or trying to develop plans 
as to whether to go into the botanical garden part 
or the sunken places across from the library building, 
or to take over Wheeler Hall, or to do this, or some 
thing else, in order to make an annex. Now what they 
did eventually was to put in the annex, and I think 
they did the right thing. 

But they were worried because of the enormous 
amount of stack space that is required for all the 
additions that are made every year. Every year there 
are several miles of stack space required, that is if 
you count every tier. Several hundred thousand volumes 
a year, perhaps three hundred thousand volumes. They 
had it all figured out that they'd need a bewildering, 
astonishing amount of new space every year. Our 
prediction for the future was something terrible 
(predictions were made as to what would happen). Of 
course, eventually they went up to Richmond and they 
put in a storage space up there. They had the big 


Camp: storage space that they have now up In Richmond, 

and they can move things back and forth, clumsy way 
to do it. 

Riess: I think a lot of time with those problems would tend 
to make you kind of anti -collecting and anti-library, 
eventually. I should think it would be hard to be 
chairman of a library committee for long. 

Camp: Well, I'll tell you frankly that the thing that 

discouraged me more than anything else was seeing 
the mutilation of books in the library, to go through 
the library and pick up a book like, say, Whitman or 
Melville, or any of the standard books that students 
use, and see the tremendous amount of damage that's 
done to the books. It's Just awful. It's just 
sickening to see that. And it makes you wonder whether 
it's worthwhile, and what is the answer to this. 

And of course now I was interested in the Matthew 
library. I helped build that up. That's the geology 
branch library and I put a lot of my own books in 
there. I'd go around and try to find one of my own 
books and I couldn't find it, and I'd find out it's 
been missing for a long time. Somebody stole it, you 
know. That's kind of discouraging too. I found out 
that they lost seventy books out of that little library 
last year, several the year before, and the year before 
that. Now they've got a little better system. They've 
got a desk so that you have to walk between a narrow 
space in going out and in. But even so, there will be 
some missing numbers, and that's pretty bad. 

The library, in transition 

Stewart: I think the library is in a big transitional stage 

right now, and it's in a very bad stage because it is 
transitional. I don't think that there will be any 
more scholars of my type, probably, because you can't 
do it in the library now. That moving the books out 
to Richmond has made them so they are no longer 
available. And this terrific proliferation of knowledge 
as expressed in books has temporarily gotten out of 
hand. You've got to go through and get some other way 


Stewart: of handling things. And I think It's going to come 
through the miniaturization of all that stuff. 

Camp: Oh yes, It's coming, the miniaturization, the micro- 
cards and the micro-film. Of course they're a little 
awkward to handle, but still. One difficulty right 
now Is that you have to go up to the newspaper room 
to read the micro-cards. Micro-cards are nice little 
things. You can handle a whole volume on one card. 
But It's difficult to get the machine to read them, 
and Lord knows you can't read them without a machine. 
The damn things are so small you can hardly see them. 

Your article, Mr. Stewart, about the decline of 
books, must have been written about then, when you 
got into your library chairmanship. 

Just a little after that, about the same time, yes. 
What was that article? 

I wrote an article called "The Twilight of the Printed 

Oh, yes. I remember. That may be like the twilight 
of the horse and carriage, but actually there will 
be some printed books I suppose, even though it might 
be troublesome handling them. 

Charles Jones is very interesting on this subject. 
You know Chuck Jones? He works back there in the 
early middle ages, and he says there's going to be 
a period of great restriction. Things are going to 
be destroyed sometime as they were in the fifth 
century, when the Alexandrian library went all to 
pieces, because the papyrus only lasts a hundred 
years; after a while it just wasn't there. They had 
a library there of I think he says five hundred 
thousand volumes. A couple of hundred years later 
the largest library in the world was maybe thirty 
thousand . 

Camp: Do any insects attack papyrus? 

Stewart: I don't know about that but it doesn't last very long 
under ordinary conditions. 


Stewart : 



Stewart : 


Is it kind of a mold that attacks it, or what? 


Stewart: I don't know what the organism Is. 
Camp: Does It go to pieces like old paper? 

Stewart: Yes, It does. It Just goes to pieces. It will only 
last around a hundred years under ordinary conditions. 
Of course In Egypt It lasts longer than that because 
It's drier country. 

Gamp: Or wherever it's in a dry cave It will last 
indefinitely, won't it? 

Stewart : Yes . 

Camp: Well, I suppose that this paper we've got, most of 
It will disappear in a short time. It doesn't cost 
too much to put things onto micro-cards or micro-film. 
The fact is, you can Xerox the stuff for four cents 
a page or much less if you're doing it wholesale. 

Riess: You're suggesting that people won't do the kind of 

research that you've done Just because it's awkward? 

Stewart: I don't see how they can. Browsing through a library 
and looking at the books, you can cover so much that 
way. I think that it's going to be much more a Joint 
operation. It is already, of course. I'm already an 
anachronism, you see, they don't do that sort of thing 
any more. They always figure out they're going to 
get a certain amount of money to do this Job. I never 
figured in terms of money at all. I Just went out 
and did it. Even that place-name dictionary I did 

Camp: That's more or less true with me, I never figured 
much on money. Of course I did make arrangements 
with Fred, Fred Rosenstock. He'd always say, "Well, 
I'll give you a certain amount if you'll edit this 
manuscript, or something." Never gave me very much 
but it was enough to make it interesting you know, 
not wasting your time. 

Riess: Getting back to the idea of browsing through a 

library and letting the subjects sort of happen to 
you as you walk into them. . . 

Stewart: You can't do it when the books are out in Richmond. 
It's as simple as that. I often think of the Civil 


Stewart: War for instance. They moved the official records 
out to Richmond. Well, gee, they're gone. They 
don't even have the index volumes in the main library. 
With those index volumes on the Civil War you could 
do a lot if you were working on a Civil War subject. 
But now it's Just gone. 

The Bancroft Library 

Camp: Well, I think the Bancroft Library has been a godsend 
for me. Especially this last Job that I'm doing. 

Stewart: It has been for me too. The stuff is always there. 

Camp: Yes, it's always there and it's handy so that you 

can get at it. If I have to look up the title page 
of a book, why it doesn't take but a few minutes to 
get the thing out and look 'it up and check it up if I 
get the imprint out. I've had to do a lot of that 
lately with this new edition of the Plains and Rookies, 
you know. Oh, the Bancroft's been a godsend, Just 
wonderful. In fact, you know Streeter was going to 
give his whole collection to the Bancroft at one time. 
And he told me that he thought the Bancroft was one 
of the great collections in the country, of course, 
and he thought of .it as a wonderful place to work 
and he had been very favorably Impressed with it 
because he'd been working here a little bit, he knew 
the Bancroft pretty well. You know, he's a great 
collector, and it was a terrible thing that his 
collection wasn't, that he wasn't, handled correctly. 

Riess: The Bancroft has always been run by scholars rather 
than librarians, or is that not a distinction? 

Camp: Well partly so, I think they ought to be a combination 
of both. 

Stewart: It was the librarians and not the scholars that lost 
that Streeter collection though, as I understand. 

Camp: I think it was the president himself that lost the 
Streeter collection, as far as I can figure it out. 

Camp: I was there in Streeter's house at the time that he 
decided against it. He told us. And I was there at 
the time he decided to give it to the Bancroft. He 
had George Harding and me down to lunch that day. I 
came back from Africa or someplace and had this 
telephone call and we came down to lunch. He said, 
"I'm going to give my collection to the Bancroft 
Library . M And we thought that was great , and con- 
gratulated him and everything, and didn't hear 
anything more about it. (Because I didn't think it 
was my business and I thought that would all be taken 
care of. I didn't think there would be any more 
trouble about it.) 

And then I was back at Streeter's house, I was 
staying there for two or three days, I guess maybe 
more than that. And one time we were sitting at the 
table and he said, "You know, I didn't get an answer 
to my letter to President Sproul." I said, "Well, 
it's awful strange, I think something must have 
slipped up. I don't think that President Sproul 
would have failed to answer your letter. Something 

I tried to find out afterwards what went on and 
I never really found out. Except that I think maybe 
Streeter's proposition was turned down, and I don't 
know just what happened. I don't really want to know. 
But they made a big error, I think, in not taking 
that collection. It was one of the great collections. 
I guess next to the one at Yale, it was the greatest 
one ever formed of western Americana. Not only 
western Americana, my gosh, it included the whole 
eastern seaboard way back to the time of Columbus. 

Riess: Where did it go, what happened to it? 

Camp: It was dispersed at public auction. Must have spent 
about a year going through auctions and brought about 
three million dollars at auction. Those books. So 
the next time I saw Tom he said, "Well, I'm going to 
sell my books at auction. " He has a big family and 
lots of grandchildren and so on, his widow and 




Pleasures and pains of writing 

Well, we're going to have to get moving pretty soon, 
I'm afraid. Are you through? 

No, I haven't let you ask enough questions. 
Stewart: I don't know that I, have so many questions. 

Camp: Well, I. want to know what George's secret is, but I 
don't think I'll ever find out. 

Riess: Please ask him. 

Camp: Maybe he won't tell us, maybe he can't tell us. I 
don't think he can tell us. 

Stewart: I have no secrets at all, Just hard work, a little 
native ability, [laughter] 

Camp: Well, that's probably true. 

Riess: You've finished your book, haven't you? 

Stewart: In a sense, yes. 

Camp: Your novel? I" The Shakespeare Crisis] 

Stewart: Yes. 

Camp: Come out the way you said it was going to come out? 

Stewart: Well, yes, it did. I've got to go back and change a 
few things in it, though. 

Camp: It's too bad to have him assassinate himself that 
way. Hope I'm not spilling the beans. 

Stewart: I just finished the first draft, and I've been 
letting it wait around a while. 

Riess: You're not satisfied with what you have? 
Stewart: You're never satisfied completely, I suppose. 
Camp: That's my opinion. 


Stewart: Maybe on a particular sentence or a particular 

passage you may be satisfied especially. But you're 
not really satisfied with the whole thing. 

Camp: I thought that probably was the case. But of course 
that's the natural thing. You Just can't keep 
working over It forever. 

Rless: Did you go about your writings in paleontology 
differently from your writings in history? 

Camp: Oh, yes. They were much more stilted. I mean, much 
more cut and dried. You get a training under these 
scientific men, these scientific professors. They 
give you a pretty cold-blooded training in writing. 
Everything has to be Just so. You've got a telegraphic 
style for certain parts of the thing. The papers have 
got to be all organized in a certain way, and all that, 
otherwise they don't pass them. So there was a tendency 
to squeeze the Juice out of everything at the beginning. 

All the papers that I wrote I felt afterwards 
they'd sort of had the life squeezed out of them. 
The whole subject became then a dried-up subject. And 
I got a little bit fed up with that sort of thing. So 
that's one reason that I branched out. 

Grinnell used to say, "There are a lot of friends 
of mine that are in science that think more highly 
of some foolish little popular article that they've 
written, than they do of all their scientific work." 
He seemed to think that was a big mistake, but I know 
how they felt. They felt that they had really 
blossomed out sometimes if they put something into a 
magazine or some little poem or something that they 
had written. They felt more human about that than 
they did about their dry-as-dust scientific writings. 

You take a lizard and you count the scales on 
his stomach and the length of the tail and the length 
of the head and write a description. And you take the 
bones of the skull and compare them with the bones of 
the skull of some other critter and you make a 
diagram of whether they're related and Just what way 
they're related and so on. 

Well, I did that in my thesis and apparently it 
was of some use to some people because that thesis 


Camp: was published fifty years ago and they reprinted it 
the other day baok at Notre Dame. They reprinted 
it and charged .$17 a copy for it and they told me 
they'd sold more of that than any of the other 
reprints that they had now. I thought that was very 
strange. I told them I was somewhat embarrassed to 
see my thesis coming out because there are so many 
things that would be changed now. After fifty years 
there are a lot of changes. 

But anyway, I felt kind of elated about the 
whole thing, the fact that it could still be of 
enough use that people could still use it. I asked 
one of the boys down at the museum, "What do you think 
of this deal of reprinting that thing?" "Oh," he 
says, "That's just fine. There are a lot of people 
that want that thesis and they haven't been able to 
get it." So, it's all right. 

Riess: Was there room for real speculation in that type of 

Camp: Oh, yes, there is room for speculation, I should say 
so. Yes, that's the core of it, that's the main 
thing in that scientific work. It's not exactly the 
speculation but the conclusions that you come to, the 
. new things that you find out. It's the new discoveries 
that are exciting. Of course scientific work in 
itself is probably Just as exciting as anything you 
could possibly do. 

But the results, as they're published, are not 
necessarily very exciting to anybody, unless you're 
very deeply immersed in the subject yourself. If 
you know enough about the subject so that you can get 
in there and figure the theory of relativity at the 
beginning must have been very exciting to people that 
knew what they were doing. But it certainly wasn't 
to people who didn't know anything about the subject, 
because it was too abstruse, too far away from every 
thing that they experienced. But it's much that way 
with any kind of original work. 

In science, you've got to have a little back 
ground in the subject in order to appreciate it or 
to make it interesting or exciting. 




Riess: Now, I know you have to be leaving. 
Stewart: Yes, I think we'd better haul off now. 
Riess: All right. Thank you both. 

Transcribers: Jane West and Lavinia Limon 
Final Typist: Keiko Sugimoto 



On Awarding Honors 

At one point I spoke about Bob Erode sticking his head in 
at the door and then asking me to run for the Board of the 
Faculty Club ['p. 1?^]. That's a good example of what might be 
called luck. It led to a good deal in my life, and even, I may 
say, had some influence upon the history of the University. 

I became president of the Faculty Club, and I have already 
said something about that. On December 8, 1966, I performed my 
last duty as president, when I presided at the big annual 
Christmas dinner, which has been the chief celebration of the 
Faculty Club since its foundation in 1902. Governor Brown, at 
my invitation, came down from Sacramento to the dinner, and gave 
a little fillip to it. The reorganized Monks' Chorus sang 
magnificently, and Cyril Birch and his players presented some 
excellent skits. Since I had had a good deal to do with all of 
this, I could feel very happy that I was going out in a slight 
blaze of glory. At this point, rather more than at my actual 
retirement, I felt that I had finished my active work. 

Then, as it happened, after about a year (I went fishing 
in Chile and did other things in the meantime) I was tapped to 
be chairman of the Centennial Honors Committee--my club service 
being, I imagine, a chief recommendation. Professor Garff 
Wilson, Chairman of Public Ceremonies and much involved in the 
Centennial of the University, was the one, I think, who picked 
me, really, Officially, my appointment came from the Chancellor. 

The point was that the University (this campus, in 
particular) wanted to establish some method or methods by which 
worthy people could be honored during the Centennial Year. About 
all that we had already was the honorary degree. Such degrees 
cannot be given in large numbers, and they are controlled by 
the Regents on a statewide basis. My Job, with my committee, 
was to work out ways in which honors could be invented and 

By the time that I went into the Job the idea of the Citation 
had already been developed. Garff says that I am wrong, that 
I went in from the beginning. Usually, I am considered to be 
the inventor of the Citation. That is the way legends develop. 
Probably there is no use my fighting against it. When you have 


something like the Citation, you have to have some name to tie 
it up with. I am the name. 

At least, I had a good deal to do with the way in which 
it was given, and working out how and for whom. 

The Citation, as far as I know, was a new idea. It has 
proved, I think, to be a good one. 

During the Centennial Year we handed out citations liberally 
about a hundred of them altogether. They were given to a few 
active faculty and people in the University Itself, and to a 
good many emeriti. They were also given to alumni who had worked 
hard for the University, particularly in connection with the 
celebrations of that year. 

Gradually we worked out the standards which still are guide 
lines. Not only must the person receiving the Citation have 
eminence in some way or other, but also he must have an intimate 
connection with the campus. Coming to the campus to deliver a 
lecture is considered to give this intimate connection. In 
addition, the Citation must be awarded on a formal occasion. You 
cannot Just mail it to somebody. Furthermore, the recipient has 
to be there to receive It. These regulations insure that the 
recipient should at least have his moment of glory. 

There was to be created, as part of the Centennial Celebration, 
by the Chancellor, an honorific body to be known as the Berkeley 
Fellows. Their number was to be one hundred, and it was to be 
a permanent organization. It was to have no particular duties, 
and we were very careful to establish that it was not going to 
be a money-raising organization. Its membership was to be from 
outstanding people, with some connection with the University, 
although the intimacy of relationship was not emphasized, as it 
was with the awarding of citations. The Chancellor would give 
a dinner once a year, and perhaps use this opportunity to make 
a kind of State-of-the-Unlversity speech and get reactions from 
a large group of interested people. 

The Chancellor sent out a letter to a considerable number 
of prominent people who were connected with the University. I 
think he sent to all the honorary degree holders from this 
campus, who over the course of the years make up a fairly large 
body of people. These were expected to send in nominations to 
the Fellows, and they did. We got about three hundred nominations, 
each including a brief statement as to why the person was being 
nominated. Then we had a committee, of which I was chairman, 
who put in a lot of work winnowing things out. 


A comparatively small number of the three hundred were 
easily eliminated, since they seemed to have been nominated out 
of personal friendship or for some other not very good reason. 
The great majority, however, were real candidates. We had to 
spend a lot of work on the subject. It was particularly hard, 
because this was an unusual and one might say unprecedented 
situation, and there were no guidelines laid. Gradually we 
came to see that there were two partially conflicting principles. 
Should we consider these people as representatives of groups? 
Or should we consider them entirely oh their own preeminence? 
The only veto that we laid down was that no active member of 
the University (whether student, faculty, administrator or 
regent) should be included. Gradually we came to see that 
there were two big recruiting areas. There were the emeritus 
faculty, and we finally took about fifteen or twenty of them. 
Second, there were the prominent alumni, especially those who 
took an active interest in University affairs. There was, to 
my mind unfortunately, a strong and natural tendency to include 
people who had given generously to the University. There was 
also a natural, but again to my mind unfortunate, tendency to 
make this an occasion to t>lle honor upon honor. That is, if a 
man had an honorary degree already, that seemed to make him a 
good candidate for the Fellows. That meant that you didn't 
really widen the base. Besides, if somebody had an honorary 
degree, appointment to the Fellows really meant less to him. 

There was a certain group that we called the super-stars, 
upon whom everybody naturally agreed. That is, people like 
Warren and Sproul. 

We never really did solve the question of representation 
versus eminence. I thought, for instance, that the University 
should, get someone from the labor movement, but the man that I 
nominated did not get by. I had the feeling that we were going 
to end up with a lot of backward-looking alumni, and I even 
talked to Heyns directly about that problem. 

In the end, I think we didn't do too badly. The committee 
winnowed things down and sent in about 125 names. The Chancellor 
selected the one hundred and we were off. 

The functioning of the Fellows has been Just about what 
we expected, and the organization now shows good prospects of 
being permanent. The new Chancellor has taken it over. 

As to my own part in it, I remained as chairman of the 
advisory committee appointed, by the Chancellor, its duty being 
chiefly to nominate people for the vacancies. Vacancies, 
naturally, occur only with a death. In that case, the new 





appointee succeeds to the number of the old one. 

We had, according to my way of thinking, a slight foul-up 
at the first meeting, that is, the dinner at the Chancellor's 
house. I had it all arranged that we would draw for numbers, 
so that we would be an association of equals. That is, number 1 
would not have any precedence over number 45. At the last 
moment, however, Donald. McLaughlin, who was a member of the 
committee, suddenly had a brainstorm. He rose, and moved (blast 
him! ) that Bob Sproul and Mrs. Sproul should be respectively 
given the numbers 1 and 2. This threw the whole thing off. Of 
course, when a motion like that is made (Mrs. Sproul was present) 
you can't oppose it. 

Obviously, you should not make a motion which does not 
really allow for any choice. 

At this time, not only did I have the appointment as 
chairman of the committees on the Citation and the Fellows, but 
also I received the appointments to be on the committee for the 
Clark Kerr medal and for honorary degrees. 

All this is an illustration of the old adage that success 
breeds success, but it is also an exemplification of Stewart's 
Law of Honors and Prizes. That is, roughly speaking, that the 
more honors a person has the more honors you give him. A child, 
let us say, gets some kind of prize in nursery school. In 
kindergarten he is thus a little outstanding, and so is a "safe" 
person to receive the Kindergarten Prize. So it goes, onward 
and upward. At every stage you give him the prize, because he 
is "safe." After a while, he gets a Nobel Prize, and a whole 
roster of honorary degrees. During the same years, the fellow 
who missed out in nursery school keeps missing out on all the 
other things as they come along. 

I served on the Committee on Honorary Degrees only for a 
short time, and got little feeling for it. I cannot say that 
I made any contribution to it. I got off it because I exercised 
my emeritus prerogative, and went to New Zealand. 

As for the Kerr Medal, I probably contributed something. 
I wrote out a long communication which we published in the 
Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, 
establishing some guidelines for the awarding of the Medal. I 
never got very deeply involved in the matter, however, When I 
was rotated off the committee after a few years, it made little 
difference to me. 



I think thnt all this matter of honors in the University 
deserves a. little comment. On the whole, I approve of the 
matter, though there are obvious corruptions that creep in. 
When I was chairnan, I was likely to tell my committee, "Remember, 
when you give someone an honor, there's also someone else to 
whom you do not give an honor. " You have to be particularly 
careful not to fall into the trap of Stewart's Law. 

We worked pretty hard at that point when making up the 
list for the Fellows. We nominated a considerable number of 
people who had not had honorary degrees, at the same time 
passing over some people who had them. But there was one agency 
of the University that raised objections. This was the Public 
Relations Bureau. They even persuaded the Chancellor not to 
publish the list of the Fellows, and that organization has never 
really been announced to the public or had any publicity. On 
the other hand, of course, some of the people who had been 
appointed Fellows came around, to me and said, "Here, the 
Chancellor appoints me to this body with the note that it is a 
high honor, and then they never even put it in the papers. 

I've always trembled a little about my association with the 
honors during these last few years. I have been afraid I would 
end up the most unpopular man on the campus in the minds of the 
great majority, those who had not received honors, even though 
the few who had received honors might think that I was all 
right. There is no evidence that it has worked out in this 
way. Obviously, there must be individuals who think that they 
have been passed over unjustly. I questioned my committee 
several times as to whether they were, individually, conscious 
of any adverse criticism of what we were doing. They have always 
replied that they have not sensed any such objection, and that 
there was much approval. I hope so. 

Some universities, like Stanford, avoid this problem by 
giving no honorary degrees at all. This seems to me too bad. 
To refrain from giving honors to someone who deserves them Just 
for the fear that you are missing somebody who may deserve them 
equally, seems to me to represent a certain pusillanimity. 
Something of the vigor of a civilization can be reflected in 
its willingness to make decisions, even though they may be 
difficult ones. 

George R. Stewart 



On Dishonesty, Seeming and Real 

If there is one thing more than another which disturbs 
me about the present-day university, it is not the occasional 
triumph of brashness over experience or the breaking of windows, 
but it is the apparent breakdown of common honesty in the 
student's relation to his work. I find, this evidenced 
particularly by the open advertisements of term-papers and even 
of graduate theses for sale. Violence and arson may be said to 
work upon a university system from the outside, but the break 
down of honesty eats at the very core. Moreover, I am afraid, 
as people who have cheated as undergraduates move on, they 
eventually become professors and carry with them this attitude. 

I want to talk here a little about some experiences in my 
teaching career, and a little more about some of my experience 
with dishonesty in various forms over a long career as a writer. 

When I was at Princeton, we had an honor system which was, 
I believe, strictly observed. One man in my class was, I 
believe, dismissed for dishonesty, and he was, as it happens, 
from a foreign country. Such an honor system could be observed, 
and largely policed by the students themselves, in a place like 
Princeton of that period, which was comparatively small, and 
preserved the tradition of the gentleman. (Don't ask me to 
define that world gentleman. ) 

When I came to Berkeley, we had an honor system too. It 
did not work very well, and it was abolished after a few years, 
largely, as I remember, at the insistence of some of the 
scientific departments. 

I had one interesting experience with it. In English Ib, 
a large course with many sections, I was teaching two sections. 
One of them had the examination in a room with only people of 
that section there. The other one had an examination in a room 
with a section taught by some other instructor. As it happened, 
through a misunderstanding, a brief identification question 
had been put upon the examination from a poem which had not 
been in the regular assignments and which I had not assigned, 
though many instructors had. The professor in charge of the 
course told me just to Ignore that question as far as my students 
were concerned. 



Among the students who took the examination in a room by 
themselves, no one at nil answered that question. In the other 
section, about rx third of my students answered it, obviously 
having copied the answer from the students of the other section 
with whom they were mingled. With one exception, all of my 
students who answered this question were on the edge of falling 
the course, or getting a D, at least. The one exception was 
the best stmdent in the section, and I would suppose that she 
had done a little extra reading. 

I gave my results to the professor in charge of the course, 
but he really suppressed the whole matter, as not being anything 
that he wanted to stir up. 

Prom my experience at writing I can give you an example 
of my theory that professors who have cheated as undergraduates 
will continue to carry the thing on after they are professors. 
About three years ago the California Historical Society 
Quarterly published an article on Bret Harte. Since I still 
keep up on Bret Harte, I started to read the article, and was 
astonished to find that it was cribbed, sentence after sentence, 
from my biography of Harte. It was by a professor in one of 
the local colleges. 

I reported the matter to the editor of the Quarterly, saying 
that it made no great difference to me but that I thought he 
should be very much perturbed. He was. Obviously, in such a 
case, there should be a quick and full apology published in the 
Journal, with an explanation. But the society took what was, 
to me, a strange position. At one point I was astounded to 
find them suggesting that they didn't want to take any action in 
the matter because then the professor might sue them. I replied 
that I could sue them on my side, definitely. Eventually they 
published a partial, I should say, explanation of the matter, 
with a letter from the professor, who pusillanimous ly blamed 
matters on his stenographer, who had just copied things out, he 
said. Obviously this is no explanation. 

I have suffered other plagiarisms too. Some Dutchman 
published what was apparently nothing much more than a trans 
lation of Storm into Dutch. He would probably have got away 
with that except for some bad luck. At Just the time of the 
appearance of his book, an authorized translation of Storm 
came out in Dutch, and of course the similarity was noted. The 
authorized publishers, naturally, raised the case. Parallel 
columns were published in some Dutch Journal, and there was a 


At the opening of the war a somewhat hysterical book 
called Bef ore I Die was published, with large extracts from 
Storm included in it. 

Of course, there have probably been a great many other 
instances of plagiarism which have never even come to my 
attention. Plagiarism, however, is a term that should not be 
used too freely. Writers naturally borrow terms and twists of 
speech from one another, sometimes without even realizing it. 
Mark Twain tells a long story about a case of this kind. Such 
minor borrowings should be taken as compliments. 

I have never got into trouble that way, although once I 
put myself into a position which might have caused trouble. At 
that time I was seeing a great deal of C.S. Forrester, and we 
were both writing novels. Such a situation is likely to lead 
to trouble. He was working on the Good Shepherd, and I was 
working on Fire. If you examine those books, you will see that 
the same device is used in them, of having a man quote the Bible 
for the terms of the story. It would seem very likely that at 
some point one or the other of us had had the idea and had 
transmitted it to the other one. The one receiving it may not 
have been conscious of getting it in that way. In my own 
defense I would say that the Bible figures much more in my 
writings than it does in his, so that the likelihood should be 
that I originated the idea, and I am sure that I did. He, of 
course, may also have originated it independently. 

I did not discuss the matter with him after the books came 
out, and the incident never made any difference in our relation 
ship. I have never had any threats of legal action in this 
connection. I have spoken already of the slight difficulty 
in the Phoenix book. In another instance I got into a personal 
tangle about my use of a name. I was absolutely flabbergasted 
when a person whom I knew quite well took a very serious 
offense at my having used his family name for a character. His 
name was, incidentally, not one x?hich would call attention to 
itself. Moreover, the character to whom I had applied it was 
a very sympathetic one. There was nothing about the character 
that in any way, as far as I could ever see, suggested the man 

There wasn't much that I could do, except to say that no 
one has a copyright to his own name, and that no ordinary person 
would make any connection in this case. 

I think that he got over it, and we have remained on good 
terms. I must say, however, that I've always kept my guard up 
about him since that time. 



M! - n rf v 


Actually, you always take a ohanoe in using any kind of 
name, because somebody may turn up who wants to make a fuss 
about it. 

I have had several cases of piracy a Brazilian edition 
of some book (Storm I think) was one example. In 196! I was 
in Uppsala. A friend suggested that we look in the university 
library and see how many copies of my books were there. Among 
them was the Swedish translation of Earth Abides. I had never 
heard of it, or seen a copy of it to this day. The Swedes have 
a great reputation for being meticulous, but apparently this 
publisher did not bother to get a contract with the author. 

When U.S. 40 was coming out, I received the galley proofs 
when I was in Boston. I took a look at them, and decided that 
I could not have that book published in my name. The editor 
had made changes all over the place, and some of them quite 
unwarranted and incorrect. The publishers (Houghton-Mifflin) 
looked at the text, and decided that I was right. They had 
the whole book reset. Something of the same thing (though with 
a different ending) happened with a Juvenile that I wrote once. 
I said that it had been changed so much that it was no longer 
my book, and I refused to have it published under my name. 

I got into a rather curious jam with a Norwegian publisher 
about a translation of Man. He must have been some kind of 
fundamentalist, and he objected to some of the statements about 
religion in the book. He wanted to expurgate it, and I would 
not let him. As far as I know, the translation never appeared. 

Saxe Commins was unduly sensitive, it seems to me, about 
the use of the word Jew, or Jewish. I took it out, in manuscript, 
a couple of times out of deference to him and in the name of 

I should also like to get into the record a case in which 
I myself was accused of plagiarism, or at least of bad faith. 
It is also of some interest in that it involved the Bancroft 
Library and a man who became something of a legend around there. 
This was Willard P. Morse. This story goes back to the time 
when I was working on Bret Harte. 

Morse was a retired mining engineer, who had laid by a 
nice amount of money. His great and overwhelming hobby in his 
retirement was that of collecting items by and about various 
writers, mostly American, in whom he had become interested. He 
was not much of a reader, I think, and the collection itself was 
what interested him. One of his first-line collections was 


Morse would show up at the Bancroft Library, once in a 
while. He lived in Santa Monica, but he would come up for a 
few days or a week, and spend his time hunting through the 
files. He would spend any amount of time running something 
down. He went beyond the ordinary collector, by making the 
thing more readily available. He put all his clippings on 
standard-size paper and arranged them carefully, so it was a 
delight to work with them. I went to his place in Santa Monica 
several times and worked there, and he was very generous with 
all his materials. 

Morse was a collector, not a scholar, and there is a lot 
of difference. As I have said Morse would go to any amount of 
trouble to run down an item but the item had to be identified 
for him first. That was what I was pretty good at. Prom some 
kind of evidence (internal or external) I would discover an 
article that Harte had written, and either run it down myself 
or give the reference to Morse to work on. 

After a vrhile I had collected, with his help too, a fairly 
good bibliography of the writings of Harte in magazines and 
newspapers. (On second thoughts, I take out that word "with 
his help" above. His help always came afterwards, not in the 
identification of the material itself. ) I had this material 
typed up, with the idea of publishing it sometime. At this 
point Morse asked me for a copy of it, and I gave it to him, 
since he had always been very helpful to me, and I was glad to 
repay some of that debt. Morse also worked at the Huntington 
Library, and he showed the people there this bibliography. My 
name was not on it. The Huntington Library people wanted a 
copy of it, and Morse gave them one. They put it in their files, 
apparently as his work. I kept on working on Harte, and 
increased the bibliography substantially after I had given him 
the copy. Eventually I published it, and I dedicated it to 
Morse. I did not, however, make any acknowledgement to him, 
in a scholarly way, because he had not actually identified any 
of the material for me. 

Before long the publisher (The University Press) had a 
letter from somebody who had worked in the Huntington Library. 
He accused me of having pirated Morse's work, without acknowl 
edgement. He gave as his evidence the fact that this 
bibliography of Morse's was in the Huntington Library. 

I suppose that a lot of morals can be drawn from such a 
case. Chiefly, I should say, it demonstrates that things are 
not always Just what they seem. 


I had Sproul meet Morse on one occasion, and Sproul made 
a trip to Santa Monica to look at the materials. On Morse's 
death, in the mid-thirties, the family decided to sell the 
material, and it has been split up, mostly, I think, in 
libraries in Southern California. 

Morse once told me an interesting story, which I used as 
a passing reference in Doctor's Oral. As a very young man he 
had worked for some mining company on the Comstock Lode in 
Virginia City. He was apparently a bookkeeper and worked with 
some kind of a ledger. Everything broke up, and the companies 
went bankrupt, and Morse took his ledger and laid it on a shelf 
there. Thirty or forty years later he came back and looked in 
through the window where he had worked, and there was the ledger 
still lying on the shelf in Just the position he had left it. 

On the whole, having written so much over the course of so 
many years, I think that I must have handled myself quite 
circumspectly, not to have got into any more trouble than I have, 

George R. Stewart 



Personal Biography 

Born to George Rlppey Stewart and Ella May Wilson 

Stewart, May 31, 1895, Sewlokly, Pennsylvania 
Married to Theodosia Burton, May 17, 192*4- 
Children: Jill Burton - 1925 
John Harris - 1928 

Education and Degrees 

A.B. Princeton, 191? 

M.A. University of California, Berkeley, 1920 

Ph.D. Columbia, 1922 

Positions Held 

1920 Assistant in English, U.S. 

1921 Lecturer in English, Columbia 
1922-23 Instructor in English, Michigan 
1923-25 Instructor in English, U.C. 
1925-35 Assistant Professor of English, U.C. 
1935-4-2 Associate Professor of English, U.C. 
19^2-62 Professor of English, U.C. 

1962- Emeritus Professor of English, U.C. 

1952-53 Pulbright Professor of American Literature and 

Civilization, Athens, Greece 
1926 summer, University of Michigan 
1939 summer, Duke University 
19^2-43 Resident fellow in Creative Writing, Princeton 

U.S. Army, 1917-19 

Civilian technician, U.S. Navy, 19^4 

Editor, U.C. Division of War Research, July-Dec 

Chairman, advisory committee of California Place-Names 

Project, 19^-^7 
Collaborator, U.S. Forest Service, 



Bret Harte 1931 

Ordeal by Hunger 1936 

John Phoenix 1937 

East of the Giants 1938 

Doctor's Oral 1939 

Storm 19*4-1 

Names on the Land 19*4-5 

Man: An Autobiography 19*1-6 

Fire 19*1-8 

Earth Abides 19*1-9 

The Year of the Oath (in collaboration) 1950 

Sheep Rock 1951 

US *K> 1953 

American Ways of Life 195*4- 

Years of the City 1955 

NA 1 1957 

Pickett's Charge I960 

The California Trail 1963 

Committee of Vigilance 196*4- 

Good Lives 1967 

American Place Names 1970 

The Shakespeare Crisis 1972 



San Carlos Day, Scribners, August 1920 

Modern Metrical Technique. 1922, U.S. Vetrerans Bureau. 

Method toward study of dipodic verse. Mod. Lang. Assn. 

Publications, v. 39 Dec. 1924 

Iambic-Trochaic Theory in relation to musical notation of verse. 

Journal of Eng. and German philology, v. 24, Jan. 1925 

Literary Panorama, Calif, monthly v. 18, March 1925 

Whitman and his own country, Sewanee review, v. 33 

Apr. June 1925 

Bret Harte on the Frontier Southwest reniew, v. 11, 

Aprl 1926 

Meter of the popular ballad. Mod. lang. ass'n. , v. 40 Dec. '25 

The real Treasure Island, University Chronicle, v. 28, 

April 1926 

The meter of Piers Plowman, Mod. Lang. Assn. v. 42, Mar. '27 

A note on the sleep-walking scene. , Mod. Lang. Notes 

v. 42, April 1927. 

American poetry, In American Year Book, 1927 

What's in a name? Children, v. 22-23, Dec. 1927 

Edited: Harte, B. Luck of roaring camp and selected 

stories and poems. Macmillan 1928 

An Old Court House, Motor Land, Nov. 1928 

The Bret Harte legend, Univ. of Calif, chronical July '28 

The Moral Chaucer, Univ. of Calif, publications in English, 

Jan. 1929. . .. 

The year of Bret Harte's birth, American Lit, March 1929 

Technique of English Verse, Hairy Holt, 1950. 

Color in Science and Poetry. Scientific Monthly, Jan. "30. 

Review: Coolidge, D. Fighting men of the West, Univ. of 

Calif, chronicle, Oct. '32 

Bret Harte, Argonaut and exile, Houghton Mifflin, 1931. 

Francis Bret Harte. Dictionary of American Biog. 1932. 

Edited: Harte, F. B. Some Bret Harte satires. Frontier, Jan '33. 

Bibliography of the writing of Bret. Harte in the magazine and 

newspapers of California (1857-1871) Univ. of Calif, publications 

in English, Sept. 1933 

Names of citizens, American Speech, Feba. 1934 

Edited: Child's tale of the Donner party. Westways Dec. '34. 

Meaning of bacheler in middle English. Philological quarterly, 

Jan. 1934. 

Popular names for the mountain sheep. American speech Dec. '35 

English geography in Malory's Morte d' Arthur, Modern Lang. 

Review, April 1935. 

Edited: Bret Harte: with comment, Book club of Calif. , Letters. 

of Western authors, Feb. 1935 

William Henry Thomas, Dictionarty of Amer. Biog. 1935 

Three and fifty upon poor old Jack.. Philoi. Quart. July '35 

Drama in a frontier theatre. Parrott presentation volume, 

Princeton Univ. press, 1935. 

Ordeal by Hunger; the story of the Donner party, Holt, 1936. 
it M ii ii ii ii ii ii 

or.* *- 

Dry drive. Frontier and Midland. Spring 1936. 

English composition: a laboratory course, Holt 1936. 
<~John Phoenix, esqu. the veritable Squibob. 
\_A life of Captain George H. Derby, U. S. A. Holt, 1937 

Mexico by ear. , Calif, monthly April 1938. 

Take your Bible in one hand: the life of William Henry Thomas, 

SF The Colt press, .1939. 

Review: The rivers of America, Sat. Rev. of Lit. Dec. 30, '39 

East of the Giants, Holt, 1938, London Harrap Ltd. 1939. 

Doctor's oral. Random KSCXXe house, 1939. 

L?. Bianca dama della California, translation, 1940. 

Btorm. New York, Random House, iyL 

Bret Harte upon Mark Twain in 1866. American Lit. HOT. '4l 

She novelists take over poetry. Sat. Rev. of Lit. Feb. 8, 4l. 

What la named? towns, Islands, mountains, rivers, capes. 

Bbiv. of Calif. Pub. In English, v. Ik 191*3. 

The source of the name Oregon. American speech, v. 19, April '44. 

Some amerlcan place-name problems. American speech, Dec. '44. 

The all-Amerlcan season. New York Times mag. Sept. 24, '44. 

The bad old summer time, " June 25, '44. 

Comments on Hoere (n)-kil'. Amer. Speech. Oct. 1944. 

The drama of spring. New York Times mag. Mar 26, '44. 

Names on the land . . a historical account of place-naming in 

the U.S. New York, Bandom House, 194$. 

Map of the emigrant road . . by T. H. Jefferson, with an intro 
duction and notes by Stewart. San Francisco, Calif. Historicl 

society, 1945. 

Heritage of names. Transatlantic, no. 26, Oct. 1945. 

It pays to watch the sky, Nation's business, Nov. 1946. 

Caribou as a Place Name in California. Cal. Folklore Quart. 

Oct. 1946. 

One of 120,000. Holiday, 1946. 

Time's Petty Pace (fiction). Esquire, Nov. 1946. 

Man, an autobiography . . . New York, Randan House, 1946. 

McOinnity's Rock (fiction), Esquire, Jan. 1947. 

The West as seen from the East. Pac. Spectator, I, 2, Spring 1947. 

Also published as Chapter 46 in Literary History of the United 

States, ed. Spiller Thorp, Johnson, and Canby, 1948. 

Fire (novel) New York, Random House, 1948. 

The Regional Approach to Literature. College English. April 1949. 

Mountains of the West: South Central Panorama. Ford Times, March '49. 

The Twilight of the Printed Book. Pac. Spectator, Winter, 1949. 

Earth Abides (novel) New York, Random House, 1949. 

Man's Names in Plymouth and Massachusetts in the Seventeenth Century. 

U. C. Publications in English, 

Tntth crushed to Earth at Gravelly Ford, Nevada. Pac. Spectator, 

Winter, 1950. 

The Biography of a Winter Storm. New York Times Mag., Feb. 26, '50. 

A Proposal for Forestry Demonstration Areas along Highways. Journal 

of Forestry, May 5, 1950. 

The Year of the Oath (in collaboration with other professors of the 

Univ. of Calif) New York, Doubleday, 1950. 

Sheep Rock (novel) Random House, 1951. 

Highway 40, Houghton Mifflin, 1953. 

The Opening of the California Trail, Berkeley, University of 

California Press, 1953. 

The Two Moby-Dicks, American Lit., January 1954. 

"The Careful Young Men," 184, #10, pp. 208-9. '56. 

H.A. 1 Two volumes: Looking North, and Looking South, Boston 1957. 


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Campus Report 

HE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER / University of California, Berkeley 

Volume 1, Number 31 

/V'goodlife" has dedication, 
fulfillment, growth 

Professor Stewart 

A retired English professor with a list of 25 books to 
his credit "probably wouldn't have become a novelist at 
all" if the Berkeley of the 1930's had been the busy, fer 
menting place it is today. 

George R. Stewart, who describes himself as "a happy 
writer with a passion for research," is probably best 
known for his Storm, Earth Abides, and Fire. At the age 
of 72, he is "more productive than he's ever been," at 
work simultaneously on a history of the English Depart 
ment, a dictionary of American place names to be pub 
lished by Oxford University Press, and Not So Rich as 
You Think, which will deal with waste disposal. 

His newest book, scheduled to be published June 15, 
is Good Lives, a biographical study of six men who, for 
Stewart, "satisfied the potential in themselves." 

William the Marshal, Joab ben-Zeruiah, Heinrich 
Schliemann, Prince Henry the Navigator, Francisco 
Eduardo Tresguerras and John Bidwell, though they 
lived during different historical periods in different 
societies under different stresses, were each able to "make 
a good life in dangerous, restricted times." 

What is the good life? 

For Author Stewart it is fulfillment, dedication, intel 
lectual growth. His six shared, he believes, "a great striv 
ing to do something." They were "not necessarily happy 
or pleasant people, but neither were they egotists." 

Continued on page 4 

For the academics and the Cl non-academic " a miscellany of notes 

Judging from the answers to a recent Campus Report 
uery, "non-academic" is not an objectionable termi- 
ology to Berkeley employees in that category, though 

few commented that it was a "somewhat negative ap- 
roach." Remarks ranged from "all that matters is that 
be considered a part of the University" to "I don't 
are on particle about my title so long as it doesn't affect 

y pay scale, vacation, or fringe benefits." 

Others suggested operational staff, but "we don't mind 
eing called non-academic in fact we feel it helps 
lentify us as part of the University community," and 
It's a clearly descriptive term when applied to employees 
i a university set-up." 

Berkeley personnel interested in teacher education 
dvising and other civilian professional positions in the 

Vietnam technical assistance program can talk with re 
cruiters from the State Department's Agency for Inter 
national Development during the week of June 19-24. 
Interviews will be held on the second floor of the Old 
Mint Building in San Francisco and can be scheduled by 
calling 556-4300. Application forms also will be available 
at all post offices. 

Courtesy discounts on hospital and clinic service 
charges, and on materials which have been available 
under limited circumstances at the UC San Francisco 
Medical Center will be discontinued as of July 1. Dis 
counts, said officials, in effect reduced the funds available 
for teaching and other services. 

Dental (San Francisco) and optometric (Berkeley) 
services, however, will continue to be available. 

In the expression of the genetic 
factors, environment plays 
an important role 

Professor Stern 

.... research is identifying 

some of the reasons for congenital defects 

and medical treatment may neutralize 

the damage either before or after 

it occurs. Many potential genetic cripples 

will become completely functional 

What Genetics' Curt Stern has called "the narrow 
hereditary bridge" is formed when a microscopic fish-like 
creature (the sperm cell) collides with the ripe, waiting 
egg and the evolutionary past of two organisms is joined. 

In man, the newly fertilized cell, if normal, contains 46 
threadlike chromosomes (23 from each parent) strung 
with thousands upon thousands of genes the units of 
inheritance reproduced as the cell divides and redivides 
until the organism is complete. 

In chemical terms, the gene consists of a substance called 
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), and it is DNA and its mes 
senger, RNA (ribonucleic acid), which governs the in 
finitely complex chemistry of the cell and its activities. 

The discovery in 1944 that DNA is the genetic substance 
and the resulting development of molecular genetics re 
search are probably "the great contribution of our age," 
says Dr. Stern. But for the man who calls himself a "classi 
cal geneticist," an organism "is more than just a bunch 
of chemicals. It is a highly regulated, coordinated organic 
system. Genes do not act in isolation. They are embedded 
in an interrelated harmonious whole." 

It is this "whole" with which Dr. Stern is most inti 
mately concerned. 

The Berkeley geneticist, who studied under Nobelist 
T. H. Morgan and is the author of one of the basic texts 
on human genetics, is interested in two aspects of research: 
human genetics (transmission of dominant or recessive 
traits) , and developmental genetics. For the latter, he 
works with the tiny Drosophila fruit fly, whose mutation 
rate and 10-day reproduction cycle enable investigators to 
observe both natural and induced genetic change through 
hundreds of generations. 

What he learns from his work with the famous little fly 
often gives him clues to man's genetic problems. "Mosaic" 
flies, produced in his laboratory, have both male and 
female characteristics, and "there are rare human beings 
who are human mosaics," he says, with similar bi-sexual, 

conflicting characteristics. Recognition of the very rea 
problems of the "transsexual" and possible surgical anc 
psychological correction have recently been of increasing 
interest to medical researchers. 

The human mosaic is only one of the potential genetii 
cripples. Missing or mutated (changed) genes, too man} 
or too few chromosomes, and inbreeding which often in 
creases recessive traits are among some of the many factor: 
which can result in mental or physical defectives. 

The 15-20% early abortion rate, says Dr. Stern, mean; 
that there "has already been a culling," that the "born" 
are a selected sample of more or less viable fetuses. 

The so-called "bad" gene is not necessarily always z 
negative factor, he points out. Research is identifying some 
of the reasons for congenital defects and medical treatment 
may neutralize the damage either before or after it occurs 
Many potential genetic cripples will become complete!) 
functional and the "bad" gene will have little or no real 
effect on the quality of the human gene pool. 

In addition, what may be a "bad" characteristic is one 
situation may be "good" in another. 

The sickle-cell syndrome, caused by an amino acid sub 
stitution affecting the hemoglobin molecule, produce; 
anemia under certain circumstances, but in malaria 
infested country the same genetic trait acts as a protective 
device. The syndrome often disappears from the genetic 
inheritance when its protective properties are no longer 

In the United States, inbreeding among humans has 
almost ceased to be a problem as community isolation dis 
appears. On the other hand, large population groups 
separated geographically for long peroids of time have 
evolved certain genetic characteristics of their own. 

But although racial groups do have different genetic 
endowments, "which are 'better' or 'poorer' depends on 
variables of conditioning, opportunity and motivation in 
a given situation." 

With this issue, CAMPUS REPORT 
completes its first year of publication. It will 
not appear during the summer quarter. 
The editor has been Saxon Stern the 
photographer, Dennis Galloway. 

To assist in evaluating CAMPUS RE 
PORT, we ask that you comment on the 
following questions: 

Should CAMPUS REPORT be con 
tinued next fall? 

Did you read CAMPUS REPORT 
regularly? Why? 

Please include the name of your depart 
ment or office and whether you are faculty 
or non-faculty. Send your comments to 
Editor, Campus Report, 101 Sproul Hall. 

inside the body, where there may be counter-balancing 

And finally, what about the population explosion? 

Although Dr. Stern shares the general worry about over 
population and foresees a time when "you can't have more 
people," he is less concerned about its genetic effects. How 
ever, "people who have very large families today may be 
depriving some future families of any children at all." 

For the present, "we must educate ourselves to accept 
the many-faceted inequalities of man. Changes in our 
inequalities are going on incessantly, often independent 
of our conscious actions and dependent on the social 
system under which we live. 

"But culture and social organization are not the ulti 
mate forces which form us. They themselves are made 
possible by our genes." 

Survivors of a nuclear war "would 
be those with the least damage, and 
though they would presumably have 
large numbers of abnormal children, 
they would also have some normal off 
spring. Society and civilization will be 
the real casualties. The naked human 
race would survive." 

in a University it's taken for granted you' II be productive" 

Continued from page 1 

Good Lives, he says, is "obviously an old man's book." 
It seems equally obvious that it is the result of the author's 
concern with an evaluation of his own life and its many 

Has George Stewart's been a "good life?" 

The professor who was awarded one of UC's prized 
honorary degrees in 1963 doesn't know "if I fulfilled my 
potential. I might have done more. Our hopes are always 
more than our achievements." 

Stewart was born in Pennsylvania and came to Cali 
fornia at the age of 12 when his father's health forced 
a move to a sunnier, milder climate. The family settled 
in Pasadena, then a comparatively small town of 40,000. 

He had "a good mother and father," a stable home life 
as a boy. There was a strong religious influence his 
father was an elder in his church, two maternal uncles 
were ministers. Although he moved away from formal 
religion as he grew older, the beliefs of his family en 
dowed him with "strong values," he says. 

For a while, the boy wasn't sure what he wanted to do. 
He went east to Princeton, where he received his A.B. in 
English in 1917, came back to Berkeley for his M.A., 
crossed the country again to work for his doctorate at 
Columbia. A year later he joined the Berkeley faculty as 
an instructor, and became a full professor in 1942, 
Emeritus in 1962. 

During his teaching years, Stewart taught creative writ 
ing and a wide variety of courses, especially in American 

He credits his writing not only to the doldrums of the 
30's, but also partly to Berkeley historian H. L. Bolton, 
who made the American West, its history and literature 
so exciting for a young graduate student that nearly all 
of his books have been somehow related to it in one way 

or another. His interest in ecological problems "why all 
these things got together, the little parts making the 
whole" is partially an outgrowth of his concern for 
California's past and future. 

He wrote his first general book, about the Donner Party, 
"because it was such an awfully good story and it hadn't 
ever been presented properly." Subsequently, he walked 
the California emigrant trail through Nevada, over the 
Sierra and across the desert. From this experience came 
The California Trail. 

His study is filled with mementos he has picked up in 
his wanderings: a patched-together blue and white pitcher 
he believes was "tossed out of some wagon train" which 
he found in pieces beside the famous old trail; a 4-pound 
single jack mining hammer discovered at the bottom of 
the American River Canyon, "probably dating back to 
1880 or older." 

The hammer is familiar to his readers. It was used as 
a symbol in Earth Abides, a book which has turned out 
to be a very enduring work. "It keeps a remarkable 
vitality." Storm, published as a paperback and included 
in the Modern Library series, is probably his most 
popular book. 

Although he "started too late, so I'm not really very 
good at it," he has fished in New Zealand, Australia, 
Japan, several countries in Europe, and only recently 
returned from a two-months trip to Chile. 

For the past three years, in addition to writing and 
travel, he has been president of the Berkeley Faculty Club 
and "it is the University that's really been my life." 

"It gives a man freedom intellectually, and opportuni 
ties to do what you want. It's taken for granted that you'll 
be productive. It's a good place," he says, "to try to live the 
'good life.' " 

Employee promotions 

Employees recently promoted include Herbert Blech- 
man, Administrative Analyst III for the Campus Research 
Office; Paul Duffey, Laboratory Mechanician at the Space 
Sciences Laboratory; Rosemary Fagg, Principal Clerk for 
University Extension/Continuing Education of the Bar; 
Vernon Hawthorne, Laboratory Technician III in Zool 
ogy/Fisheries; Alberta Marenco, Senior Clerk for the 
Accounting Office; Geraldine Peabody, Principal Clerk in 
Social Welfare; Eloy Pena, Senior Offset Duplication Ma 
chine Operator for the Central Stenographic Bureau; and 

Diane Quinn, Principal Clerk at the Survey Researcn 

Others are Betty Robinson, Principal Clerk for Univera 
sity Extension/Business Administration; Patricia Romeol 
Principal Clerk in the Graduate Division; Ellen Sclieti 
straete, Secretary-Stenographer in the Graduate Division; 
Margaret Thoene, Principal Clerk for University Exten-i 
sion/Program Processing; Mary Lee Widener, Administra-i 
live Assistant for Gifts and Endowments; and Lawrencm 
Young, Laboratory Technician III at the Cancer Research 
Genetics Laboratory. 

Campus Report 

Volume 1, Number 31 


a ear \>\ 

June 1, 1967 

Olfuc of ihe Chancellor 

Editor 2137 



academic freedom, 186 
Alger, Horatio, 4, 5, 233 
American Names Society, 171, 172 
American Place Names, 3, 17-19, 40, 43 
American Ways of Life. 78, 193, 195, 201 
Armchair Strategists, 219 
atomic bomb, 82, 162, 181, 183 
Author's Guild, 48, 49 

Backus, Joseph, 35, 210 

Baker, Howard, 84 

Bancroft, H.H. , 197, 228 

Barzun, Jacques, 131 

"Beyond the River" 63-65 

Bohemian Club, 173, 174, 218 

Bolton, Herbert, 20, 228 

Book Club of California, 239 

Book of the Month Club, 38, 142 

Brandt & Brandt, 113, 11^ 

Bret Harte. 25, 28, 29, 31, 108-110, 115, 229, 236, 262 

Erode, Robert, 1?4, 254 

Cady, Howard, 177, 210 

Caldwell, James, 185 

California Trail. 6l, 119, 190, 205, 209-211, 214 

Camp, Charles, 190, 217, 219 

Carpenter, Kenneth, 191, 192 

Chit-Chat Club, 218, 219 

Colt Press, 133, 239 

Columbia University, 18-21, 23, 52 

Commins, Saxe, 41, 140-142, 262 

Committee of Vigilance. 189, 246 

Coney, Donald, 228 

Cosmos Club, 21? 

Cowley, Malcolm, 93-96, 104 

Cross, Ira, 230 

Davis, H.L. , 86-88 

Department of English of the University of California on the 

Berkeley CampusT 26, 33, 222, 223 
Deutsch, Monroe, 135 
Disney, Walt, 48, 167 

Doctor's Oral. 44, 45, 50-52, 126-133, 137, 147, 148, 246, 264 
Doubleday & Vo. , 177 


Earth Abides. 1, 43, 45, 49, 53, 68-71, 81, 82, 126, 143-151, 
154, 165, 179-184, 195, 213, 237, 246, 253, 262 

East of the Giants. 12, 44, 57, 101, 111, 119, 121-126, 129, 
141, 148, 165, 166, 229, 236 

Evans, Bertram, 232, 233 

Faulkner, William, 76, 103 

Fire. 1, 9, 10-12, 34, 46, 52, 53, 68, 73, 94, 119, 126, 
^35-147, 158, 159, 161-165, 195, 232, 233, 261 
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 93, 112, 168 
Ford, Henry, 170 

Forester, G.S., 105, 213, 219, 26l 
Friends of the Bancroft Library, 229 
Frost, Robert, 89-92 

Gardner, David P. , 188 

Gayley, Charles Mills, 20, 31 

"General Grant", 64-, 65 

Gerbode, Frank, 150 

Good Lives. 183, 211, 214-216. 243 

Grabhorn, Jane (see Colt Press) 

Grether, Ewald, 230 

Hammond, George, 229 

Hardy, Thomas, 232, 234 

Hart, James D. , 34, 165, 227, 228 

Hart, Walter Morris, 26, 218, 222, 223 

Haynes, Duncan E. , 214 

Hemingway, Ernest, 76, 84, 105 

Henty, G.A. , 4, 233 

Hildebrand, Joel H. , 25, 29, 30, 67, 218, 222 

Holt, 44, 114, 118, 129, 130 

Houghton Mlfflin, 29, 184, 195 

Hughes, Merritt, 51 

"I Wish I Might" 62, 64 
Iliad. 101 

Jackson, Joseph Henry, 45, 168, 219 
James, Henry, 93, 99, 158 
John Phoenix. 120, 229, 26l 
Johnson, Paul, 36 

J V 


edy, Arthur, 15 
Kennedy, J.F. , inauguration, 90-92 
Knopf, Alfred, 114, 115, 130, 240 
Krapp, George Phillip, 52, 132 

Lehnan, Ben, 32, 33, 50, 163 
Leopold, Starker, 11 
Loewenburg, Jacques, 185 
Lott, Milton, 77 
Lynch, Jim, 188 

i-ian. 42, 71-73, 77, 78, 100, 156-158, 200, 246, 262 

McGraw Hill, 209-211 

Mclntosh & Otis, 45, 46 

MacLeish, Archibald, 92, 233, 234 

Marquand, J.P. , 218 

Miles, Josephine, 17, 122 

Modern Metrical Technique, 22, 23 

Morse, V/lllard P., 262-264 

N.A. 1, 161, 202, 253 

Names on the Land, 3, 20, 33, 43, 151-154, 241 

Not So Rich As You Think, 237-239, 246 

On the Beach, 184 

The Opening of the California Trail, 197, 229 
T5rd"eal by Hunger, 11, 12, 25, 26, 36, 39, 57, 72, 113ffl21, 
137, 144, 184, 210, 211, 229, 234, 246 

PG&E, 135, 180 

Paris Review interviews, 83, 93, 102, 104 

Park, David, 165 

Parrott, T.M. , 14, 16 

Perkins, Maxwell, 41, 110-112 

Pickett's Charge, 144, 203-208, 214, 246 

Priestley, Herbert I., 228 

Puritan Ethic, 55, 56, 196, 197, (also see Wasp) 

Random House, 45, 47, 72, 130, 136, 137, 177, 195, 240 
Reader's Digest, 72, 73 
Richnond, Hugh, 128 
Roberts, Harry, 19, 229 


Sandburg, Carl, 86-91, 1?0 

Sauer, Carl, 191 

Schlieinann, Heinrich, 215, 216 

Seelye, John, 229, 246 

Shakespeare Crisis, 213, 224, 225, 247, 248 

Sheep Rock"; 144, 145, 155, 156, 166, 189-192, 202, 229 

Simpson, Louis, 85 

Snow, C.P. , 212 

Spaeth, J. Duncan, 16 

Sproul, Robert Gordon, 257, 264 

Stein, Gertrude, 84 

Steinbeck, John, 45 

Stewart, Andrew, 3, 4 

Stewart, George Rippey, 

Personal Life: family background, l-5> 242, 243; high school, 
6-8, 106, 107; at Princeton, 13-17, 21; U.C. study, 6, 19, 23; 
at Columbia, 18-23, 52; Ph.D. thesis, 21-23, 55? at University 
of Michigan, 23, 169, 170; Army, 5, 6, 18, 23, 28; in Berkeley, 
38, 39, 86ff92; in Mexico, 87, 92, 126, 129, 13^, 251, 253; 
in Greece, 193-197; Navy work, 159-161, 252; in Hollywood, 167; 
health. 6, 23, 214- , 221, 250, 251; hobbles, bookbinding, 8, 19, 
229, 24l, 242, fishing, 250-252; clubs, 65, 66, 174, 175, 217- 
220, 243; teaching, (see University of California, Department 
of English) 

Opinions; theme of ecology, 11, 12, 69, 103, 146, 147, 237- 
239; theme of the primitive, 49, 50; first novels, 236, 237; 
historical truth, 54, 208, 209, 230, 231; future of books, 
241, 244, 245; agents, 45-48, 113, 114; book reviewing, 40, 
41, 83, 16?, 168; fans, 41-43, 125, 130; working with publishers, 
71, 110, 240, 241; education, 54, 55; on fiction vs. non-fiction, 
12, 118; self-reliance, I8ff22; honor system (plagiarism), 259, 
260; award-granting, 254-258; Emerson, Thoreau, 21, 22, 74, 100; 
aging and retirement, 28, 56, 221-223; "slowing down" 
(motivation), 202, 203, 211-215, 248, 249; luck (adversity), 
7, 25, 32, 48, 61, 112, 113, 129, 137, 215-217; favorite writers, 
76, 231-234; oral history, 208, 209, 227, 229, 230; regional 
writing, 225-227; private publishing, 133, 239-241; courage, 
76, 183; racial greatness, 182, 300; expatrlatism, 82, 92, 93 

Writing; stages of (Cowley), 94fflOO; choice of style, 151, 
152, 156, 157; condensations, 72, 73; habits, 9, 13, 95fflOO, 
104, 105; talking about it, 34, 85, 86; collaborating, 35, 
36, 64; the chapter and the paragraph, 10, 148, 149; research 
(mapping), 9-11, 19, 28, 52, 108, 138-141, 151, 225-227; 
choice of subjects, 11, 12, 68, 162-164; favorite passages, 


119, 123, 123, 142-147, 1552-155; the mask, 51, 166, 189, 

100, 246, 247; motive power, 101, 102; organization (plotting), 

70, 117, 121, 123, 126, 137, 153, 158, 247 

Unpublished Works: Autobiography, Iff 8; date book, 5, 57, 
58, 100, 194, 214; names book, 28, 60; plays, 61-66; ideas, 
60, 66, 67, 79-81, 227; satires, 79, 80; (see Shakespeare 

Stewart, Jack, l6l, 164, 231 

Stewart, Theodosia Burton, 1, 4, 38, 39, 57, 64, 135, 151, 

169-171, 251, 253 

3tewart f s Law of Honors and Prizes, 257, 258 
Storm, 1, 10-12, 3^, 38ff53, 94, 126, 129, 134ffl47, 151, 154, 

158, 161, 165, 195, 212, 232, 234, 260-262 
Strong, Edward, 65, 66 

Take Your Bible in Your Hand. 133 

Tatlock, Jack, 29, 30, 51 

Techniques of English Verse, 23 

Thome s, William Henry, 133 

Thorndyke, Ashley Horace, 21 

To California by Covered Wagon, 197 

Tolman, Kathleen, 126 

Trask, Parker, 159, 161, 191, 252 

Truman, Harry, 54, 209 

U.S. 40, 28, 193-195, 202 

University of California, G.R.S. study at, 6, 19, 20, 23; 
Department of English, 25-34; students, 74-77, 84; Drama 
Section Club, 65, 66; literary life, 85, 124-126; zoology 
department, 87, 88; clubs, 173-175, 217-220; loyalty oath, 
175, 184-189; Centennial Honors Committee, 254-258; Berkeley 
Fellows, 255, 256, 258; The Bancroft Library, 228-230; 
Regional Oral History Office, 227-230 

University of Nevada, 187, 188 

Utter, Robert P. , 163, 164 

Van Doren, Carl, 21 

W.P.A. project on Western writing, 36-38 

Wasp, 196, 197 

Wells, Chauncey, 189 

'"//here is Mr. Winkleton?", 64, 65 

Whipple, T.K., 84 


Wilder, Thornton, 106, 139 
Williams, Annie Laurie, 45, 46, 48 
Wilson, Edmund, 93 
Wilson, Garff, 254 

Year of the Qat.h T 176, 177, 184-189, 194 

Years of the CJty T 49, 53, 148, 158, 195ff202, 213, 214 

Suzanne Bassett Riess 

Grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Graduated 
from Goucher College with a B.A. in English in 
1957. Post-graduate work at the University of 
London and the University of California, Berkeley, 
in English and art history. 

Feature writing and assistant woman's page editor, 
Bethlehem, Pa. , Globe -Times. Free-lance writing 
and editing in Berkeley and volunteer work on 
starting a new Berkeley newspaper. 

Editor in Regional Oral History Office since 1960, 
interviewing in the fields of art, cultural history, 
environmental design, photography, and University 

1 3 9 :. 5 3